No. 14/15 Kansas Overpowers No. 23/22 Kansas State in Big 12 Opener, 67-49

Jan. 4, 2012

Final Stats | Quotes | Notes |

LAWERENCE, Kan. – Pulling down its biggest rebounding margin of the season, No. 14/15 Kansas drove past a second-half surge from No. 23/22 Kansas State to win its Big 12 Conference opener, 67-49, in Allen Fieldhouse.

Although Wednesday night marked the 273rd meeting between the Sunflower Showdown rivals, it was just the 15th time Kansas (11-3, 1-0) and Kansas State (11-2, 0-1) met with both teams among the country’s top-25. KU collected its 43rd win in their last 46 meetings by holding the visiting Wildcats to a season-low scoring output and shooting percentage, while out-rebounding the visitors by its best margin of the year, 50-26.

Kansas State snapped a six-game win streak in front of a sold-out Allen Fieldhouse crowd. The Wildcats, however, compiled the season-best string of wins by holding its opponents under a 37 percent-shooting mark in each of those six contests. Not able to create the same pressure against its rival, the Jayhawks shot for a 50 percent mark in the first half and finished the evening shooting over 45 percent.

The second half would see the matchup reach its rivalry form, as KSU cut the Kansas lead to three with 12:30 to play, but a 28-13 KU run to end the night sealed the 21st-consecutive Big 12 opener.

Juniors Travis Releford and Thomas Robinson set the tone for a steady night, putting up 16 and 15 points, respectively. Using career highs in both points and rebounds (11), Releford notched the first double-double of his career. Robinson remained consistent with his 10th double-double of the season, with 15 points and 14 rebounds – helping the Jayhawks own the advantage on the boards for the 13th-straight game.

An early free throw put Kansas State on the board first before five-straight points from Releford jump started the early KU lead. The juniors got started early, as he and Robinson put up the first nine points for Kansas.

Meanwhile, KU’s defense kept a tight grip on the Wildcat offense in the opening minutes, surrendering just one bucket on their first 10 attempts. In contrast, KU shot at a 50 percent clip in the same seven-minute span en route to building the 13-3 lead that prompted KSU head coach Frank Martin to signal for the timeout.

The Kansas offense rolled out of the pause, as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor and junior forward Kevin Young dropped in back-to-back shots to surge ahead, 17-3, with 12 minutes to play in the opening frame. Three minutes would pass before the Wildcats would hit their next basket and KU wasted no opportunity in adding to its lead, 23-7. The clock read 7:06 before the Wildcats reached double figures.

In the final seven minutes, however, the Wildcats narrowed the sizable gap as KU ran into a scoring drought of its own, going more than five minutes without a field goal while committing a pair of costly turnovers. Consecutive layups for Releford and Taylor pushed the lead back to 15 by halftime, 35-20.

Facing its lowest scoring total in a half this season, Kansas State came out of the break on a 6-2 run. Two commanding blocks by junior center Jeff Withey doubled his game total, and kept the Wildcats from cutting the KU lead to single digits in the early moments of the second half. Withey ended the night with six blocks, adding to his league-best blocking average (2.9 bpg).

A 30-second Kansas timeout only paused the run KSU put together using eight-straight points from senior forward Jamar Samuels that nearly eradicated the Kansas lead, 39-36, with less than eight minutes into the second half. Without a field goal for more than five minutes, KU head coach Bill Self called for the timeout.

Out of the timeout, senior guard Conner Teahan hit a pair of clutch three-pointers, kicking the lead back out to seven midway through the final frame. Releford’s second three-pointer of the game answered one from KSU’s Will Spradling in back-to-back possessions. Thirty seconds later, Teahan dished Robinson the dunk that pushed the Kansas lead back to double-digits, 52-41, and brought the home crowd roaring back to life.

From there, Kansas worked its way to a consistent 15-point cushion. Taylor drove to the basket with less than a minute remaining to seal the final score, 67-49.

No. 14/15 Kansas will play its next two conference games on the road at Oklahoma on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 1 p.m. on ESPNU and at Texas Tech, Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 8 p.m., on ESPNU.