Jeff Withey shines, KU guards struggle against WKU


Jeff Withey (5) drives to the basket in the second-half of the Jayhawks 64-57 second-round win against Western Kentucky Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Jeff Withey (5) drives to the basket in the second-half of the Jayhawks 64-57 second-round win against Western Kentucky Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Mike Yoder

1. Jeff Withey: Easily Kansas' best player offensively and defensively. Withey once again feasted on a team that wasn't ready for his impact defensively, as he contributed seven of KU's nine blocks. The senior also was efficient when he received it in the post, scoring a game-high 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He added six rebounds and an assist to go with three turnovers in 30 minutes.

2. Travis Releford: Playing good but not great was enough to be KU's second-best player Friday night. The senior guard posted 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, adding a nice pass in the post to Withey for his only assist to go with a turnover. Releford led KU with 37 minutes.

3. Perry Ellis: When nothing was going right offensively for KU, Ellis provided a boost with a couple nice spin moves in the post. The freshman didn't play as well late, missing a bunny and also hesitating on a mid-range jump shot — one that he would have, without thinking, stepped up and made in last week's Big 12 tournament. Ellis posted nine points on 3-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds, a steal and no turnovers in 12 minutes.

4. Ben McLemore: One of his worst games of the year. McLemore looked fazed and had about as many head-scratching plays against WKU on Friday as he'd had the whole season. One time, he chased down a loose ball at the other end of the court only to unnecessarily slide with both feet out of bounds before clumsily trying to call timeout. Having said that, he still made crucial free throws at the end, putting in seven of eight freebies to finish with 11 points (2-for-5 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists and four turnovers.

5. Kevin Young: Gave KU one of its few highlights, rebounding his own miss before going up for a reverse jam. Young's passes Friday seemed to be either brilliant or awful ... and there wasn't much in between. The senior had five points on 2-for-4 shooting with team-highs in rebounds (eight) and steals (two), but he also tied for the team-high with four turnovers in his 26 minutes.

6. Naadir Tharpe: Like McLemore, he didn't play well, but he did hit clutch free throws. Without Tharpe's 4-for-4 effort from the line in the final minute, the game could have gotten a lot closer than it already was. The sophomore showed poor judgment when rushing up shots, though, including one forced jumper that he took during a 1-on-3 break with no rebounding help. Tharpe had four points (0-for-3 shooting) with three assists and two turnovers in 20 minutes.

7. Jamari Traylor: Made one of two shots for two points in seven minutes.

8. Elijah Johnson: Didn't do anything to convince fans and analysts that KU's guard play — widely considered the Jayhawks' biggest weakness — is improving. Johnson scored five points on 1-for-6 shooting (0-for-2 from three) and made some horrible decisions against WKU's press, which included one leaping, overhead pass from one side of the court to the other that was easily intercepted by WKU in the final minutes. Johnson finished with two assists and three turnovers in 36 minutes. Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (285 points)
2. Ben McLemore (265 points)
3. Travis Releford (252 points)
4. Kevin Young (216 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (195 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (178 points)
7. Perry Ellis (169 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (115 points)
9. Andrew White III (52 points)
10. Rio Adams (38 points)
11. Justin Wesley (24 points)

Big 12/Postseason Standings
1. Jeff Withey (194 points)
2. Ben McLemore (176 points)
3. Travis Releford (167 points)
4. Kevin Young (157 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (119 points)
T6. Naadir Tharpe (117 points)
T6. Perry Ellis (117 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (74 points)
9. Andrew White III (29 points)
10. Rio Adams (23 points)
11. Justin Wesley (17 points)

NCAA Tournament Standings
1. Jeff Withey (10 points)
2. Travis Releford (9 points)
3. Perry Ellis (8 points)
4. Ben McLemore (7 points)
5. Kevin Young (6 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (5 points)
7. Jamari Traylor (4 points)
8. Elijah Johnson (3 points)


ParisHawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Withey is still improving! Can't believe this guy. Not just a dominant defensive performance, but a dominant and clutch all-around performance.

He put the team on his back (with a little help from foul trouble on the little bigs who were giving him more trouble in the first half).

I can see EJ and Naadir coming back and playing well.

I can't see McLemore "taking the next step". At best, he'll score in the flow and provide some highlights, maybe at opportune moments, and that's great. But he's not going to put the team on his back.

P.S. Ben, pleeaase prove me wrong...

NJHAWK 8 years, 6 months ago

Book 25 for Ben against Roy's team.

diegohawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Ben will need to play and not think so much. As per his own comments he was trying not to mess up. That is not what you want out of your leading scorer. When he was chasing down the ball it was like he was thinking what he would do with it when he caught up to it as opposed to just catching up with it and stopping it then picking it up and reacting to what is now the play. Ben is capable of 25 against UNC. So is EJ and so is Rele. I would prefer we get solid contributions from all and Withey, KY and Perry have big days in the paint.

We will need to chase the perimeter shooters from UNC off their marks and get back and rebound. If we do this and our guards knock down some shots, defend and find the bigs we should be fine.

Ashwin Rao 8 years, 6 months ago

This ranking pretty much reflects all games this year. Thanks to the big man, we are where we are. Others need to show up now on to take us to the championship.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 8 years, 6 months ago

I thought Ellis did a great job in limited minutes. Other than that hesitation in which he seemed to be unsure wether to shoot it or drive it he was pretty darn good and deserved more minutes.
I wish we could have signed that Cat Barber kid. Our guard play was atrocious and I'm not sure how its going to be any better next year. Regardless, survive and advance hawks!

Doug Merrill 8 years, 6 months ago

I agree with the ranking of Releford as number two, but he had a better than good game. Without his D, we lose. He played a LOT of minutes in a frenetic game, still didn't get so tired on D that he ended up putting them on the line. The one time he was called for a foul on a shooter it was a phantom.

John Randall 8 years, 6 months ago

Travis is a rarity in that he does his resting on the offensive end because he understands most teammates don't have the discipline for that. To play defense the way he does takes a LOT of energy and he has to conserve enough to bring it late in the game, so he defers a lot on offense. He also pushes himself hard on the conditioning front.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

IF North Carolina does not play better than Friday KU will have a chance to win.

IF KU does not play better than Friday North Carolina will have a chance to win.

IF both teams play wayyyyy better than Friday we'll have a fun game with the team scoring the most points winning the game.

KU being a second half team consistently which has worked thus far may want to rethink that strategy.

If KU had lost I say Western Kentucky could beat North Carolina with their rigorous in your face approach that appeared to have a stifling impact.

That Jayhawk Jeff dude could be a perimeter shooter as well for he is an excellent shooter with some strength. Imagine a hot 7 foot 3 point shooter = impossible to block. Jeff is soooo agile for a 7 foot body.

Yes I watched both games.

jhwkr542 8 years, 6 months ago

I don't think we can afford to have EJ run the point and Tharpe on the bench anymore.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 6 months ago

"One time, he chased down a loose ball at the other end of the court only to unnecessarily slide with both feet out of bounds before clumsily trying to call timeout."

I'd have to see the replay, but it looked to me that he tried to call timeout because he knew we was going out of bounds trying to catch up with a nearly impossible pass.

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, that was an unfair criticism. The ball was basically uncatchable and he made a valiant attempt to get it on an apparently slippery floor. That shouldn't have been scored as a turnover for Ben, if it was. He did have some pretty bad turnovers, though.

Austin Bergstrom 8 years, 6 months ago

Agreed ralster. My initial thought was does he pick it up and take it in for the dunk or pass it to whoever was under the basket then to my surprise he had to dive to the floor to just catch up to it?...That thought never crossed my mind as the play unfolded. !st game jitters out of the way...we will play better Sunday!

Kent Richardson 8 years, 6 months ago

There is just poor flow to games anymore. Not enough time to settle in before another media time out. Frenzied spurts with jagged edges with no time for calculated strategy. Can we counter what you've started? This is why only defense can survive anymore. Thanks to Jeff and Travis we are capable in that regard. Hurry up and press your advantage seems to be the leading skill and turnover infected teams either fall behind quickly or let lesser talented teams hang around with an opportunity to beat you late. If the other squad is nailing threes or getting after it on the ofensive boards you had better be responding in kind. Ben can three up, Perry can rebound and score and Kevin can hit the offensive boards. It must be super stressful on coaches as I know it is on fans. Things can go south quickly and not much time to correct your mistakes. And then beauty explodes out of the uglyness and we shout for joy as quickly as we cursed earlier. The Fans Lament. Will our guards hold their own? Please!!

eastcoasthawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Both teams wearing camo's yesterday lost. Let's not.

John Randall 8 years, 6 months ago

Wearing uniforms designed for the market immature fans provide can be a big step in forgetting the things that made us what we are. The unis may not cause it, but they sure can contribute to it.

Robert Brock 8 years, 6 months ago

Pro scouts watching the game must have wondered what the big deal is about Ben McLemore.

Dan Philipps 8 years, 6 months ago

Friday's game was almost a classic recipe for a KU tournament disaster. On the other side of the coin, all of our players stepped up and knocked down free-throws. I've seen more than enough tournament games where KU shoots in the 50%-60% range from the free-throw line and is then forced to play catch up from behind the 3-point line.

Nice work on the 85% free throw shooting Hawks! Despite some rough play, our guards knocked down free throws. Based on the forums, our three weakest links during the press really came through on the line.

McLemore: 7-7 Johnson: 3-3 Tharpe 4-4

Our guards are great athletes who will improve throughout the tournament and their careers. It will be funny to watch the forums change when one of them goes off for 25+ against UNC.

If they keep playing defense and hitting the free throws, we'll see KU in the Final Four again.

dylans 8 years, 6 months ago

Jesse, why are you bashing on McLemore over a hustle play. It didn't look like he had a chance to control that ball. If you want to bring up one of his four turnovers or poor ball security fine, but don't bash a player for chasing a loose ball. That was one of the few hustle plays on the day.

Cindy Heidorn 8 years, 6 months ago

Watching the replay, it appears Self thought it a hustle play too.

parrothead8 8 years, 6 months ago

That wasn't "bashing." It was an accurate description of the play. It's a good thing you're not a public figure, because you'd need a lot thicker skin.

dylans 8 years, 6 months ago

It's a legit question. There are many more examples of poor play than that.

I hold a public office. And I claim to know nothing about you or your skin.

Steve Reigle 8 years, 6 months ago

Too much thinking in this game. Too much playing not to lose to a 16 seed. The guys need to quit thinking and just go play and have fun.

nuleafjhawk 8 years, 6 months ago

1988: Danny and the Miracles

2013: Jeff Withey and the Not Ready For Prime Time Players

TommieSmithElbow 8 years, 6 months ago

Withey was reminiscent of the effort that Simien put in against Bucknell (24 pts.), and the (let's take our Senior year off) Miles and Langford effort (or total lack of) in the same game. Bill was doing everything he could, and our guards were doing everything they couldn't. Ellis may have looked a little nervous, but he didn't look mentally overwhelmed. I'm not sure how the experience our guys have should even have them in the "Not Ready For Prime Time" category, but they sure have looked like it at times since the Ames Iowa State game. Engage. Listen to Bill. Let's go Hawks! You're better than 2004!

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 6 months ago

That's a b.s. cheap shot against Miles -- and especially Langford, who was fighting through a painful injury in the Bucknell game.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 6 months ago

"unnecessarily slide with both feet" is otherwise known as a slip.

Ben was able to get loose a couple times for some real nice plays, including the coast to coast drive through their D for a layup, which is exactly what NBA scouts are interested in.

What the analysis doesn't do is give credit to the D that WKU's redheaded stepchild played on Ben. Unfortunately, it appears that this analysis is unable to recognize an extreme D performance, because Travis' D on WKU's MVP (Price) was HUGE, and amazingly unmentioned. It wouldn't change the order, but it most certainly deserves being mentioned.

blindrabbit 8 years, 6 months ago

A little more UK/ KU/UNC trivia! As of today, basketball top 5 men's winners:

Kentucky--------- 2111 all time wins (end of season) Kansas------------2100 all time wins (hopefully more to go) North Caroln'a- 2090 all time wins Duke------------- 1999 all time wins Syracuse---------1871 all time wins

eric poncharello 8 years, 6 months ago

I noticed known of our perimeter guy's did not push the ball up court and try to make play's off the back court press. I feel our guy's are capable of making a run and at times have shown this play making ability. I like to see one time from one of our players of having a lights out performance like the ones on other bball teams in the tournament.

Kent Richardson 8 years, 6 months ago

My we are an edgy bunch today. To heck with it. We won and we can beat any team that gets in the way. Does anyone disagree with the headline on Jesse's article?

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