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 (2-1) 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.