By Matt Tait.
Monday's 79-42 Kansas University victory against Texas Tech was exactly what Senior Night games are supposed to be — fun, flashy and an absolute breeze.
After trading baskets with the visiting Red Raiders for the first eight minutes, the Jayhawks ran away from their competition and added a few more highlights to the already-lengthy reel.
Not surprisingly, the four seniors who were playing in Allen Fieldhouse for the final time and the one freshman who likely played his last game in front of the 16,300 adoring fans, took center stage in this one.
Jeff Withey was a monster on both ends and delivered an impressive final line of 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Kevin Young sparked things early with his relentless energy and finished with 14 points, six rebounds, two blocks, two steals, and more than a few dunks.
Travis Releford was hot from start to finish and did all of the things he's come to be known for — hustled, stole possessions, made free throws, smiled — to the tune of 13 points and five rebounds.
Elijah Johnson continued his late-season resurgence with a stellar first half and a strong finishing line of seven points and 12 assists, six of which were first-half alley-oops.
And Ben McLemore, coming off his career-best 36-point night last Saturday, added 13 points, five rebounds and two steals.
In all, 15 KU players entered the game to help the Jayhawks improve to 26-4 overall and 14-3 in Big 12 play, once again putting the pressure back on Kansas State to keep pace at the top of the Big 12 Conference standings.
K-State plays host to TCU at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and then closes the season at Oklahoma State on Saturday. KU closes the season at Baylor next Saturday.
Here’s a quick look back at some of Monday's action:
• The game turned when: The two teams started playing above the rim. After a Texas Tech timeout with 10:54 to play in the first half, junior Jaye Crockett threw down a monster jam off an alley-oop pass from Josh Gray that pulled the Red Raiders to within three points at 13-10. Crockett ran back down the floor with a big smile, but the smile didn't last long, as his high-flying bucket opened the door for the Jayhawks to go upstairs and run away from the Red Raiders. KU outscored TTU 32-10 the rest of the half and turned Senior Night into a laugher.
• Offensive highlight: It started with 9:53 left in the first half with an alley-oop pass from Elijah Johnson to Kevin Young in which Young caught the pass at the rim behind his head and reverse dunked it in traffic. It continued at the 8:07 mark of the first half, when Johnson threw another oop, this time to Jeff Withey trailing on the pick-and-roll. Before the half ended, KU had converted six highlight-reel alley-oops and a logged a three-point make by senior center Jeff Withey on the first attempt of his career.
• Defensive highlight: This might be a reach, but how about the possession midway through the second half when the Jayhawks — specifically Travis Releford — tracked down three straight KU misses before getting a bucket from Jeff Withey. I know those are offensive rebounds and aren't exactly defensive plays, but each one kept a possession away from Tech.
• Key stat: Just one week after dropping 39 points on Iowa State in a huge road win, KU point guard Elijah Johnson delivered a monster first half, finishing 2-of-3 shooting for five points and nine assists. Six of the nine assists were alley-oop passes.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will close out the regular season at 5 p.m. Saturday at Baylor.
KU closes out the Senior Night win.
Texas Tech not getting back on defense well still.