Saturday, March 23, 2013


Opinion: Jeff Withey helps save day

Jeff Withey (5) blocks George Fant in the Jayhawks second-round game against Western Kentucky Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Jeff Withey (5) blocks George Fant in the Jayhawks second-round game against Western Kentucky Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford talk after win over WKU

Kansas coach Bill Self and guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford talk after the Jayhawks' 64-57 win over WKU on March 23, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

WKU coach Ray Harper

WKU coach Ray Harper talks after his team's 64-57 loss to Kansas on March 22, 2013.

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Box score


— When the curtain came up, they played tighter than Bruce Jenner’s face, sloppier than the loudest patron at closing time and about as harmonious as an eighth-grade garage band. Sometimes they wore sneakers. At other times, I could have sworn they were on roller skates, not quite sure how to stop themselves. They couldn’t shoot straight from long distance. Full-court pressure perplexed them into 17 turnovers.

Yet, the Kansas Jayhawks, No. 1 seed in the South region of the NCAA Tournament, withstood a stiff challenge from a quick and confident Western Kentucky team, 64-57. Kansas advanced to a Sunday game against North Carolina, which on Opening Day of the Kansas City pod anyway looked like the best of the eight teams in the Sprint Center.

How did the Jayhawks overcome themselves on a night they couldn’t hold onto the ball and didn’t make a single three-pointer?

Well, it never hurts to have the best big man on the floor, which Kansas almost always does in any game on any year. As usual, senior center Jeff Withey made it difficult to score in the paint, making hitting three-pointers the best chance for an upset. The Hilltoppers (20-16) hit just three of 20 threes.

Withey scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including a 15-footer, but his most important work came at the other end, where he blocked seven shots and altered many others.

“He’s the conference defensive player of the year,” said George Fant, Western Kentucky’s power forward and best player. “He’s just a long, athletic guy. Credit him a lot for the way he played tonight. He’s a load. He’s just a load.”

Withey compensated for what too often looked like November basketball.

The same Kansas squad that played so efficiently a week earlier in the same building regressed in so many ways. The Hilltoppers slapped on full-court pressure at opportune times and came away with nine steals. Ball-handling was the first and most recurrent cause for concern for Kansas (30-5) throughout the season, and it was in evidence again Friday.

“It’s always been a part of our package, and depending who we’re playing, we’ll use it more than at other times,” Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper said. “We felt like our pressure could cause Kansas some problems, and it did. We were about a half-step from getting two or three more steals.”

With better long-range shooting, Western Kentucky might have become the first No. 16 team in NCAA Tournament history to win a game. In defeating Villanova earlier in the day, North Carolina showed no such wayward shooting, making 11 of 21 three-pointers.

“We certainly know we’ll have to play a lot better Sunday,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

KU and North Carolina are scheduled to tip off at 4:15 Sunday in a game that will be followed by Ole Miss and La Salle, which upset Kansas State.

“At first I didn’t think we handled the pressure real well,” Kansas senior Travis Releford said. “We were a little sped up. I think we just calmed down.”

Self said he thought the team had been at its most loose all week, but noticed a more tight feel in the locker room before the game. Now that the first one is out of the way, look for Kansas to bring a much better game Sunday against a North Carolina team that has won nine of 11, with the only two losses coming against Miami and Duke, the two best teams in the ACC and No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

“Personally, I think it’s kind of part of human nature to not be prepared for a smaller team, and Sunday it’s going to be Kansas and North Carolina, and Roy (Williams) is coming back,” KU senior guard Elijah Johnson said. “There is going to be so much juice in the building. The fans are going to be pumped up, and we’re going to be pumped up. I think it’s going to be a different atmosphere in the locker room.”

And a different, more beautiful game on the floor.


JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 7 months ago

Survive and advance, just like last year.

Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 7 months ago

Nah, we will kick ass and advance from here on. This team will show why they're different than last year's. Let's roll, go Jayhawk!

ManCrushOnCaptainKirk 8 years, 7 months ago

If they had been healthy all year, I thought Western Kentucky probably would have finished in the top 3 of SEC or PAC 12. Definitely one of the better 16 seeds I've seen in a long time. They were never out-matched athletically. Even from the first possession, I could tell this was going to be a tough game, they pushed us 5 feet beyond the arc to start many of our offensive sets in the first half.

Love that we can win when we don't play well. Teams usually need at least one of those wins to get far in the tourney. Would love to take down UNC, VCU, FLORIDA for sentimentality's sake!!!

Fletcher Anderson 8 years, 7 months ago

I will give you the third place in the SEC, but I I would switch The PAC 12 with the Big 12. They have three teams left and their 12 seed crushed our 5 seed. The big 12 so far has not had a great tournament.

Tan Hong Woon 8 years, 7 months ago

UNC is going to shot the 3s and press KU. KU will have to step up their game to get into the sweet sixteen.

Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 7 months ago

“Personally, I think it’s kind of part of human nature to not be prepared for a smaller team.." - EJ, that smaller team has bigger heart than yours. Look at how many TOs, misses our team had. Consider Withey bailed us out tonight. Go play with guts, because the road is only going to get rougher!

April13 8 years, 7 months ago

I keep waiting for Elijah to get it. It doesn't look like he ever will.

ManCrushOnCaptainKirk 8 years, 7 months ago

I had to watch this game on Direct TV. When Steve Kerr thought he was off the air, he was saying how inexplicable EJ's decisions were. Unbelievable.

Andy Godwin 8 years, 7 months ago

Duh. I respect Steve Kerr's opinions. He was very kind towards KU during the entire broadcast, but did, and rightfully so, point out the ridiculous, head scratching decisions by the point guards. Self has done an excellent job for most of the season masking this glaring weakness. He is is a great game time tactician. Any team capable of pressing should and will. KU will go only as far as their guard play and it was horrendous again against an athletic team (but even more athletic teams stand in their way to advance). UNC is a better version go ISU and if KU's guards continue to struggle, and their is no indication that they will get any better, they will be the first #1 seed to fall.

Michael Sillman 8 years, 7 months ago

Boy, Withey really impressed me tonight. He has become a real man who is going to earn that high NBA draft pick. Our best hope is to ride him as far as he'll take us.

I know that all the experts say that McLemore will be one of the lottery picks but how is he going to play in the NBA when he still can't dribble the ball? I guess that he'll just be a spot up shooter.

Right now I think our best five are Tharpe, Johnson, Releford, Ellis, and Withey. With Tharpe handling the ball, it reduces the number of brain dead passes from Johnson. Except for that follow dunk, Young appeared to be in a fog too.

Hopefully the run and gun UNC game will loosen up our wing players.

actorman 8 years, 7 months ago

Young had a few dumb plays, but don't forget that he also had eight rebounds, and he brought his usual energy and intensity at a time when they really needed it.

April13 8 years, 7 months ago

Ellis had 7 rebounds in 12 minutes. I actually think he brings us more energy and brings a lot more offense.

Bob Thompson 8 years, 7 months ago

I like Tharpe handling the ball, and look forward to when EJ hits the pine, but it seems like Tharpe dribbles the ball too much and our team starts watching instead of playing.

nostradavid 8 years, 7 months ago

You've learned the lesson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - hit a home run with the first paragraph. Your first sentence was close enough.

Here he comes to save the day ... Jeff Withey is on the way !


WHAT A JEFF !!! by nostradavid

Michael Johnson 8 years, 7 months ago

withey made the 15 footer, and i think that was the only FG outside of 3 feet. thats not going to cut it.

Michael Luby 8 years, 7 months ago

yep, they better shake the cobwebs outta their heads before sunday. If they do, I like our chances against UNC. Better match up.

Tyson Ailshie 8 years, 7 months ago

I guess I still don't understand why UNC is a better match up. They're a perimeter team that shoots a high percentage with fast, athletic guards. I suppose if it becomes a run and gun game, then maybe. But if UNC presses us and play the drive and kick game on offense, we're in for a long game. Looks like the scouting report is out on us now. PRESS OUR GUARDS INTO MISTAKES.

studio 8 years, 7 months ago

The Hungry Win Tourney play is a Privilege not a Right. Confidence has no time for Anxiety. Lets Do This.

JakeBarnes 8 years, 7 months ago

I hope E. Johnson graduates this spring. Otherwise, Self may figure out a way to start him next season. I hope not. Four is enough.

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 7 months ago

Yes, I'm sick of all these 30-win seasons, conference titles, and Final Fours. Enough is enough.

yates33333 8 years, 7 months ago

I don't know why Barnes wrote this, but I see his point.

FearlessJayhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

To go very far in this tournament you have to play great D, which we do, and have great guard play, which we don't. The only hope we have against Carolina is to not let them shoot three's. I'm still glad we got this far. At the beginning of the season I had low expectations. It just goes to show what a great coach Bill Self is.

kusayzone 8 years, 7 months ago

Whithey should have saved the game. The game is all about matchups, and when WKU hacked their way into foul trouble, a senior possibly playing in his last game has to recognize that he needs to step up and be the man. If the opponents have poor guards, then it will be the guards turn to step it up. The North Carolina game will be totally different, and we shall see who steps up and is able to find their weakness and have a terrific game. Let the chess match begin...I wonder if Roy practiced against a triangle and two...rcjh

nuleafjhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

I've never been one to go along with the opinion of the masses, and I'm not going to start now.

If I had the first pick of the NBA draft it wouldn't be Ben McLemore (probably not even in my top 10)

It's Jeff Withey. He shows up and puts forth maximum effort every game. And changes the game.

Chew on that.

eastcoasthawk 8 years, 7 months ago

All known freshman played like first year players yesterday. Bennett, Marcus Smart and Ben Mac. Yet the NBA will still draft them on potential.

Robert Brock 8 years, 7 months ago

The NBA will draft them because they have fleeced everything else in college ball. There is only slim pickings left over.

Tom Longhofer 8 years, 7 months ago

David Thompson on NC State on teammate Tom Burleson: When the rest of us are tired, he's still 7' 4".

jaybate 8 years, 7 months ago

It was a great quote by one of the greatest players...alas done in by blow.

Fortunately, MJ recalled him when MJ was put in the HOF.


linkscoach 8 years, 7 months ago

We don't match up well with small fast teams when we play man to man. I get tired of seeing Withey have to run around the perimeter and guard a guy that's 6" smaller than him and twice as fast just because that guy is their "post". What would have been wrong with playing some zone last night? A match up zone with Withey hanging in the paint and WKU only scores half what they did. I love Bill to death and no one can question his ability as a coach but I think he sometimes lets ego get in the way of good game strategy. There's nothing wrong with changing your defense mid game, even against a 16 seed.

Turnovers and lack of a true and experienced point guard will be the end of us. I think we roll past NC tomorrow but I'm not looking forward to a rematch with VCU. VCU doesn't look as talented as the team we played two years ago but they thrive on making point guards melt. If we can defend the three and knock down shots we have a chance against them but I wouldn't want to put money on it.

Ben is what he is. The most talented freshman in the country. He will go one or two in the draft. IF KU makes the final four I predict he goes one and Withey goes top 5 or 6. The only reason Withey goes lower is because of the NBA's track record of big men busts. But anyone that thought we would be able to ride on Ben's back to a championship this year didn't watch the games I watched this season.

Woody Cragg 8 years, 7 months ago

"Tighter than Bruce Jenners face." That's good Tom. Almost as tight as a gnat's *$$ across the rain barrel.

yates33333 8 years, 7 months ago

I always heard a bull's arse in fly season.

jaybate 8 years, 7 months ago

Withey helps save day.

Sun helps warm planet.

Some assertions are not quite risky enough in terms of the insight they shed. :-)

Steve Jacob 8 years, 7 months ago

My Michigan team just smoked VCU. That was the best game they played all season. If Michigan and KU play, they both have match-up problems.

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