New York Former KU assistant Steve Robinson, now in his first year as Florida State's head man after four seasons at Tulsa, led the Seminoles into Friday's Preseason NIT final with a 67-60 victory over UConn.
You can take Steve Robinson out of the Kansas system, but you can't take the KU system out of Robinson.
Florida State sure looked a lot like a Kansas team in surprising No. 11-ranked Connecticut, 67-60, in a Preseason NIT semifinal on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Balanced-scoring -- eight Seminoles scored and four were in double figures -- and relentless defense -- UConn shot 31.3 percent -- are, of course, Kansas trademarks.
Robinson is in his first year at Florida State after spending four seasons as head coach at Tulsa, yet he sounded like he's still a Jayhawk at heart.
"Well, you know, sentimentally I'm going to pull for Kansas except when they play against Florida State," Robinson said.
That'll be Friday night in the Preseason NIT championship game after KU survived Arizona State in overtime, 90-88, in Wednesday's late game.
No. 25-ranked FSU pushed its record to 4-0 with an impressive display of poise down the stretch. With less than a minute remaining, the Seminoles were nursing a four-point lead. They protected it by hitting free throws when they had to and by forcing UConn to throw brick after brick at the basket.
The Huskies missed seven of their last eight shots after cutting FSU's lead to two at 59-57 with 2:23 remaining. Ironically, it was a three-point goal by touted freshman Khalid El-Amin that reduced the deficit to a basket.
It was ironic because El-Amin, a 5-foot-10 point guard who narrowed his choices to Kansas, Minnesota and UConn last year, couldn't find Times Square from 42nd Street. El-Amin missed 15 of 18 shot attempts, and had only four assists.
"Their point guard is very good," FSU coach Robinson said. "That young man will be outstanding some day."
Not this day. El-Amin wasn't the only Husky affected by Florida State's defense, though. Forward Kevin Freeman missed eight of 11 shots and Richard Hamilton, the other forward, clanked 12 of 20 from the floor.
Florida State's size advantage produced a slight three-rebound edge on the boards, but the Seminoles' overall height -- Robinson used four players who stand 6-9 or higher -- was glaring in the blocked-shot category. FSU had a dozen blocks to UConn's one.
"One of our strengths is we had a little size advantage," Robinson said, "but I don't know if we were overpowering by any means."
Early on, the Seminoles were underwhelming. UConn bolted to a 5-0 lead, then FSU hit the Huskies with a 16-2 lick that left them playing catch-up the rest of the night.
Robinson brought his Tulsa team to the Big Apple during last year's Thanksgiving holiday and had to settle for playing in the third-place game.
Not this year.
"I feel a lot better than last year at this time after the first round," he said, smiling. "It may not have been the prettiest basketball game I've ever seen, but we'll take it."