LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Kansas made its share of mistakes, allowing Georgetown to go on runs that prevented the Jayhawks from pulling away.
When the game was on the line, though, Kansas came through -- a big step for such a young team.
Thomas Robinson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Travis Releford hit two big free throws and the No. 14 Jayhawks made the big plays down the stretch to hold off pesky Georgetown 67-63 in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday night.
"We handled adversity really good and hit some big shots," said Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, who fought off leg cramps to score 16. "We kept our composure."
Playing in front of a largely pro-Kansas crowd inside Lahaina Civic Center, the Jayhawks (2-1) found a way to win against a team that wasn't about to back down.
Releford made the biggest plays, getting his hand on a steal that set up a layup by Elijah Johnson, then sinking two free throws with 15 seconds left. Releford ended the game with a heady play, diving for a loose ball after a miss by the Hoyas, then calling timeout to help the Jayhawks move into the semifinals against UCLA on Tuesday.
"Travis made about three great plays for us to ice the win," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He did a lot of good things late. He needed that individually and we needed that, too."
Kansas' closing stretch helped frustrate Georgetown coach John Thompson III.
The Hoyas (2-0) kept up with the Jayhawks most of the way, hitting one big shot after another each time Kansas went on a run. Georgetown just couldn't stop Robinson from getting to the rim -- he had at least a half-dozen dunks -- and came up just short when Jason Clark's 3-pointer with 5 seconds left was offline.
Clark led Georgetown with 15 points and Hollis Thompson had 14.
"It's frustrating," Thompson III said. "The things that we can control, we should control. We're going to play against a lot of good teams that are going to do things where there's nothing you can do, but there are a few things we can control. We're not going to be singing this young team song all year."
Kansas was picked by the Big 12's coaches as co-favorites to win its eighth consecutive conference title along with Texas A&M, despite losing Marcus and Markieff Morris, Josh Selby and several other key players from last season.
That was a surprise to Self, particularly after his highly regarded recruiting class was trimmed in half to three before the season even started.
Kansas lost forward Braeden Anderson due to the Big 12's policy on partial qualifiers, and questions about the transcripts of shooting guard Ben McLemore and forward Jamari Traylor made them ineligible.
Still, the Jayhawks are talented, led by Robinson and Taylor.
Kansas opened the season as it almost always does, by stomping an overmatched opponent, in this case a 46-point win over Towson. The young Jayhawks got a quick dose of reality in their second game, though, unable to keep up with No. 2 Kentucky in a 75-65 loss last Tuesday.
Kansas got off to a shaky start offensively against Georgetown, missing eight of its first 12 shots, including a breakaway dunk by Robinson that clanged off the back of the rim.
The Jayhawks settled down after that, though, getting an alley-oop dunk from Justin Wesley and a 3-pointer by Conner Teahen to go up 35-29 late in the first half.
But, as a young team tends to do, Kansas kept following good spurts with bad ones.
The Jayhawks went into a funk after the first-half run, allowing Georgetown to get within two at halftime. Kansas tried to pull away to start the second half and started fumbling balls away as the Hoyas fought back, before the Jayhawks finally pulled out the win with one final spurt.
"I thought we played hard and played smart, for the most part," Self said.
Kansas looks like a veteran team compared to Georgetown.
The Hoyas lost three starters and a pair of role players from a team that won 21 games and lost to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament. That leaves Georgetown with a roster of 10 underclassmen to go with Thompson, Clark and Henry Sims.
But the Hoyas are resilient, rallying together after a brawl with a Chinese team in Beijing over the summer, and play that hard-to-guard version of the Princeton offense that Thompson installed.
Georgetown needed its resiliency after struggling early.
The Hoyas went nearly four minutes before scoring their first points and missed 11 of their first 15 shots. Georgetown finally started to get a few shots to drop, let Kansas go on a run after that and fought back, getting a pair of late 3-pointers by Thompson and one by Otto Porter at the buzzer to stay within 37-35.
The Hoyas continued to fight back, but couldn't come up with the big plays down the stretch to fall just short after a gutty effort from a young team.
"We have to take care of our business a little better," Thompson III said. "Maybe it is a function of being young, I don't know, but we have to take care of our business better in key parts of the game."
- Verne Harris
- Jamie Luckie