LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Thomas Robinson stuffed his jersey into his mouth, leaned back in his chair at the postgame news conference and tried his best to stifle a scream.
It wasn't all that surprising that he was cramping up.
He had played perhaps his best game in a Kansas uniform when his team needed it the most.
Robinson had a career-high 26 points to go with 11 rebounds, Jeff Withey came within one blocked shot of a triple-double and the No. 13 Jayhawks held off Long Beach State 88-80 on Tuesday night after blowing a big first-half lead.
"I watched them play a couple times. We knew they were a tough team, they're physical and fast," Robinson said. "That's the formula for staying in a game with any good team."
Robinson inside and Connor Teahan outside is a good formula for beating a good team, too.
Teahan hit four 3-pointers and added a career-high 14 points for Kansas (6-2), which established a 19-point lead on the Big West favorites in the first half before sloppy passes, senseless fouls and generally poor shooting allowed Long Beach State to climb back into the game.
The 49ers (4-4), who have already knocked off then-No. 6 Pittsburgh on the road, closed within 77-72 with 3:01 remaining on a 3-pointer and two free throws by James Ennis.
Tyshawn Taylor answered after two offensive rebounds when he was fouled on a scoop layup. The three-point play gave Kansas some breathing room, and Withey added another three-point play moments later to make it 83-72. The Jayhawks managed to drain the remaining time off the clock.
"We played really well the first half, for the most part," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "The thing that's most pitiful for us is the last 24 points they scored, 21 were off our turnovers. Our guards had zero assists and six turnovers the second half. It's hard to look good when you don't get shots. That was about as miserable of a performance the last 10 minutes as I've ever seen.
"We were fortunate to win," he said, "because they were pretty good."
T.J. Robinson had 19 points, and Ennis and Casper Ware each had 16 for the 49ers, who also played then-No. 6 Louisville tough on the road and will visit fourth-ranked North Carolina on Saturday.
"We've had the No. 1 strength of schedule on Jan. 1 the last two years, and this will probably be No. 3," Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. "Our goal this year is to not just go play in these games, but win and compete. We're not happy to just be in here."
Withey finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Taylor -- the Jayhawks' starting point guard -- came off the bench to add 12 points. He'd been dealing with a right knee injury and Self said it was uncertain whether he would even take the floor until pregame warmups.
The Jayhawks will now turn their attention to a high-profile game Saturday against No. 2 Ohio State. They had to fight for 40 minutes to make sure they wouldn't be coming off a loss.
Robinson led the Jayhawks on a 16-4 run to start the game, showing that he can score from all over the floor. He made a couple inside to force the Long Beach State defense to collapse on him, and then went outside to knock down a pair of 18-footers just moments apart.
The Jayhawks' lead ballooned to 34-15 with 9:31 remaining when Robinson scored on consecutive possessions and Teahan knocked down his fourth 3-pointer, but Long Beach State showed off its veteran poise by keeping things from getting out of hand. Edis Dervisevic scored in the paint with 2:31 left in the half, trimming the lead to 41-32 and sending Self tearing into his bench.
That's when Robinson showed just how versatile he's become.
First, he took a feed from Kevin Young and powered home a dunk. Then he returned the favor by finding Young, who was fouled on a drive to the basket and converted a three-point play. And then the big fella helped set up a three-point play by Elijah Johnson that capped a scoring flurry.
Kansas wound up with a 51-39 lead at halftime. Robinson was 8 of 8 from the field and perfect on both free throws to go along with six rebounds. The Jayhawks shot 58.8 percent as a team.
They didn't come close to that number in the second half.
The biggest problem was turnovers -- the Jayhawks wound up with 22 of them, and it was everyone getting into the act. Nobody in the lineup had more than five, though four different players had at least four, and Long Beach State managed to turn several of them into easy baskets.
"We continually gave up points, but it's one of those things -- Coach Self says it all the time: `Next play.' You have to worry about the next play," Teahan said. "If you sit there and worry about it, you get passive and you turn the ball over again."
Self said he wasn't surprised that Long Beach State put up a challenge.
The 49ers are a veteran group that has played enough tough opponents this year. And on top of that, they won the last time they visited Allen Fieldhouse, back in January 1993, against a Kansas team coached by Roy Williams that eventually reached the Final Four.
"Dan won his league last year, if I'm not mistaken. They should win their league again this year," Self said. "They're a fun team to watch."