Top-Seeded Jayhawks Advance Past Western Kentucky

March 23, 2013

Final Stats | Notes |

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas needed all 17 points and seven blocks from Jeff Withey to hold off a challenge from No. 16 seed Western Kentucky, 64-57, and capped an NCAA Tournament Friday that saw three teams seeded No. 12 or lower walk off the court with upset victories, including two earlier inside the Sprint Center.

Withey set a new personal best for points in a tournament game on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and picked up where he left off after setting an NCAA Tournament record for blocks a year ago. He was joined in double figures by Ben McLemore and Travis Releford (11) as the Jayhawks (30-5) used stiff defense to overcome a one-point halftime deficit while holding the Hilltoppers (20-16) to 20.5 percent (8-of-39) shooting in the second half.

No. 12 Ole Miss and No. 13 La Salle each found ways to upset its opponent on the Sprint Center floor Friday, but the Hilltoppers’ hopes of being the first No. 16 to win against a No. 1 seed were dashed by Kansas. The Jayhawks advance to meet No. 8-seeded North Carolina, who defeated Villanova, 78-71, on inside the Sprint Center for a chance to advance to the NCAA South Regional Semifinals at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.

Jamal Crook (13), T.J. Price (12), Aleksejs Rostov (11) and George Fant (10) all reached double digits for Western Kentucky and the Hilltoppers out-rebounded KU 41-35, but the underdogs couldn’t overcome Withey’s inside scoring and defensive presence coupled with the inability to score against the Jayhawks in the second half.

Whether by design or as a product of cold perimeter shooting – the Jayhawks were 0-for-6 from beyond the arc and failed to hit a three pointer for the first time since 1998 – Kansas scored 24 of its 30 first half points and 38 total in the paint. Western Kentucky was equally icy from long-range and finished 3-for-20 (15 percent) from behind the three-point line.

Withey was the workhorse in the game’s opening minutes, scoring six points – all from within three feet of the basket – and swatted a pair of shots by the first media timeout. He and Perry Ellis, who chipped in nine points off the bench, combined to score half of the Jayhawks’ total by halftime.

Kansas led 14-12 near the midpoint of the first half but Western Kentucky used a pair of buckets by Fant to take the lead and didn’t relinquish for 8:09, until Elijah Johnson converted a three-point play to put KU up 28-27. The Hilltoppers wrapped a pair of Jamal Crook lay-ups around two Releford free throws in the final minutes to enter the break up 31-20.

The Jayhawks used a dunk by Kevin Young and a fastbreak lay-up by Releford to open the second half on a 4-0 run and once KU got the lead, it never gave it back. Kansas pushed the advantage to as many as 11 with a little more than three minutes to play but the Hilltoppers couldn’t pull any closer than four points at 59-55 with 25 seconds to play. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.