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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Jeff Withey does it all for KU

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates a bucket by center Jeff Withey and a foul by Saint Louis in the second half of the championship game of the CBE Classic, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Travis Releford celebrates a bucket by center Jeff Withey and a foul by Saint Louis in the second half of the championship game of the CBE Classic, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 73-59 victory over Saint Louis on Nov. 20, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jeff Withey and Travis Releford

Jeff Withey and Travis Releford talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 73-59 victory over Saint Louis on Nov. 20, 2012.

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Box score

KU-SLU

The outrageously wide wingspan of Kansas University senior center Jeff Withey never touched more facets of a basketball game in the finishing minutes than it did Tuesday night in the CBE Classic title game in the Sprint Center.

A die-hard Saint Louis University basketball team would draw closer, only to see Withey, always close to the basket, push his team back to a safe lead.

Withey ran the floor hard to establish position at both ends, didn’t let anybody shove him out of the way and put his signature all over a 73-59 victory in which KU played high-quality November basketball for the second night in a row.

Withey attempted just 12 shots from the field and scored 25 points to go with seven blocked shots, two steals and five rebounds. He scored 12 of his team’s final 16 points, and the closer the game became, the more he impacted it.

Kansas had a double-digit lead from the 9:50 point of the first half until the 3:51 mark of the second half, when Cody Ellis hit a three-pointer to cut the KU lead to 65-56.

In a span of 1:34, Withey scored the next six points on a driving bank, a dunk and two free throws to put the game safely away.

His scoring total matched a career-high, but Saint Louis coach Jim Crews spent more time talking about what Withey did at the other end of the court.

“We like to go inside with several of the guys,” Crews said. “He makes it a little bit more difficult to do that, even if it’s not his man.”

The best indication of how extensively Withey disrupted SLU can’t be found next to his name in the box score, rather in the shooting totals of the Billikens. Frustrated into taking their chances outside of Withey’s long reach, they attempted an identical number of three-pointers (26) as two-point field goals and made more threes (10) than shots inside the semi-circle (eight).

“He’s good,” Crews said. “Some shot-blockers are good on the ball. Some are good off the ball. He seems to have a pretty good knack of doing both and staying out of foul trouble. So certainly salute him on that.”

The former Army head coach doesn’t dispense salutes liberally, so he clearly has a great deal of respect for Withey’s game.

The KU center was whistled for just one foul, and his official block total was seven, but it would be interesting to hear what a curious fan might find by watching the entire game again with the sole purpose of keeping track of Withey’s blocks. It seems blocked shots are the least accurate figures in sports, doesn’t it?

“I have no idea,” Withey said. “I don’t count them in my head or anything. It goes either way. Sometimes they might give you one when you don’t or miss one when you do. It goes either way.”

Nice of him to say that, and it’s not surprising he doesn’t track them in his head, but he never gets credit for a block when he shouldn’t and seemingly, like all shot-blockers, doesn’t get credit for all of his rejections.

Anyway, his statistics don’t make teammates grateful. His presence does.

“We appreciate it as players, the coaches, we see and know what Jeff does for the team,” fellow senior Travis Releford said. “He helps out a lot. He takes a lot of pressure off of guards defending because if we get beat we know we’ve got Jeff back there to alter the guy’s shot. We definitely appreciate that a whole lot.”

And Withey appreciates them for feeding him the ball. Johnson assisted two of Withey’s buckets during his 12-point flurry, Kevin Young one and Ben McLemore another.

“I definitely don’t mind it,” Withey said of the closer role he performed against Saint Louis. “It definitely wasn’t just me. My teammates did it all for me. They were throwing the ball perfect. All I did was have to catch it and go up. They were making great passes, and they made it really easy for me. That’s something we do in practice, and that’s something our guards are getting really good at. It’s giving me confidence and making me more aggressive. I definitely don’t mind being the closer though.”

The closer. The rejector. The low-post scorer. The free-throw shooter (11 of 14). Withey did it all for Kansas in this one, especially when it counted most. The exhibition game through which he somnambulated didn’t count, remember? Maybe he was just playing possum to see if anybody would fall for it.

Comments

Kit Duncan 1 year, 4 months ago

Nice article Tom. Please disregard the foolish comments from the people most likely to have read Cliff Notes to do their homework instead of the real thing. One paragraph does not make the rest of the article a poor read. Besides, I thought it was clever of you to refer to Withey "somnambulating" rather than the harsher term "sleeping".

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Mark Lindrud 1 year, 4 months ago

He finally showed life the last few nights, but I want consistency from him. Can he do something similar night in and night out? I'm hopeful, but lets see how he handles double teams and the other defensive issues he will probably face. The other issue is Young cant score, which may make it difficult so I need to see more, but I'm hopeful.

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NationalChampsKU 1 year, 4 months ago

Where do I go to rewatch old games?

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Michael Sillman 1 year, 4 months ago

For the sake of some of the posters here, we need to change the law that requires everyone to read Keegan's columns and comment on them. I'll cast the first vote in favor of repealing the regulation.

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HawksWin 1 year, 4 months ago

Good article.

Have you noticed when Jeff pulls/holds/inserts his mouth guard, how much/many germs from other players' hands are going into his mouth? Hey, this is the germ season & can't have our players sick with flu. Wonder if refs sanitize the balls. Hey, student manager?

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wildjayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Good article Tom, some of these morons don't appreciate or not smart enough to understand good articles.

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Ludwig Supraphonic 1 year, 4 months ago

Loved the ESPN in game comments regarding KUs inability to prepare bigs for the NBA. It made me hope recruits were not sufficiently gullible to find these guys credible. Those of you who watched the SEMS game on ESPN3 may have seen the Kentucky Insider recruiting infomercial at halftime. Caligula schmoozed at a lunchcounter with Joe B Hall and noted an NCAA championship was of lesser import than placing 6 in the first round. This year his goal is seven. He opined about his need to make sure he wasn't the only one making money. What a humanitarian. Though I must applaud ESPN for providing this public service message.

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PSM 1 year, 4 months ago

A lot of users are too critical of Tom Keegan. He writes decent articles and has a depth of sports knowledge and media experience to draw from. And stuff like that.

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Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

The mobile athleticism at the 4 this year should play into so much more PT for Withey this year, and puts him into more of a Cole-ish role. Already, the team seems to be rounding into form and function. Now Coach can spend the next few months refining the execution. It must be ominous to play anywhere else in the Big 12 in particular.

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archercc 1 year, 4 months ago

Probably the biggest spark to Withey's game last night was excellent perimeter play in the first half. They wanted to key on Jeff and kept him quiet in the first half and had they not drained those open looks could have continued to. Travis's points lead to Jeffs, as SLU had to play honest defense and definitely didn't have the size to match up.

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mikehawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Love the "stank face" comment. We noticed it last night watching the game and know it reflects Jeff is INTO IT. My wife and I didn't have a name for when Jeff gets that look, but I'm going with stank face for the rest of this season. Come on, Jeff...more stank face!

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Woody Cragg 1 year, 4 months ago

We never knew who'd show up last year. Please be different this season Jeff?

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William Blake 1 year, 4 months ago

Mr. W is back!

Good game, Mr. W!

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VaJay 1 year, 4 months ago

ok, ok, ok. The article was fine except for the interesting finish. Just enjoy the remarks about Withey and the fact that we are very lucky he decided to stay here this season & not go pro yet!

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UncleMiltyN 1 year, 4 months ago

Is it just me or does this article seem like it was written by a junior high kid tryin a little too hard to be cool

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akgjenkintown 1 year, 4 months ago

Being on of Withey's biggest critics this season it was nice to see him play with energy from the beginning to the end of the game. This type of effort will be needed night in and night out for KU to be successful.

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mojayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

"Somnambulate" is what I plan to do at work the day after Thanksgiving.

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RJ King 1 year, 4 months ago

"It seems blocked shots are the least accurate figures in sports, doesn’t it?"

"somnambulated"

Keegan: Either be folksy, cute, and conversational, or strive for academia and Pulitzer-ish.

(It's like having Two Buck Chuck with a 5 star Duck L'orange. Pick one. Here's a word: incongurous)

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RJ King 1 year, 4 months ago

Finally. A Withey Stank Face 2012 sighting.

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