No. 12/11 Kansas Claims CBE Classic Title Over Saint Louis, 73-59
Nov. 20, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the second-straight night, Kansas City native Travis Releford put on a show in front of his hometown crowd, this time scoring 21 first-half points to earn Tournament MVP honors and propel No. 12/11 Kansas past Saint Louis, 73-59. The victory crowned Kansas champions of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic inside the Sprint Center Tuesday night.
In the teams’ first meeting since 1999, Kansas (4-1) knocked off Saint Louis (2-2) for its first in-season tournament title since winning the 2010 Las Vegas Invitational. Senior center Jeff Withey and redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore joined Releford on the All-Tournament honoree list. Following Releford’s big first half, Withey led the Jayhawks with 11 in the second half en route to a career-high tying 25 points. Releford finished right behind him with 23, while McLemore totaled 11 points.
Senior guard Elijah Johnson handed out the assists to an offense that went 24-for-53 (45 percent) from the floor. The Las Vegas native chalked up nine assists for the first time since his freshman season against Alcorn State (12/2/09), matching a career high.
Three different Billikens put up double-digit scoring performances in the contest, led by 19 points from senior forward Cody Ellis. KU held him to three points in the opening 20 minutes, but three three-pointers sparked 16 second-half points for the SLU leader. The Billikens completed the evening shooting 35 percent (18-for-52).
Releford led the offensive start as the senior guard made 17 of the Jayhawks’ first 28 points, highlighted by a career-high 4-for-6 from three-point range. The Billikens adjusted and contained him through the second half, allowing Releford to take only two more shots, one of which he made.
Neither team got out to a good shooting start as both were under the 35-percent shooting mark in the opening minutes. A breakaway dunk for Johnson looked anything but slow, however, and KU bounded ahead, 14-4. Even though SLU responded with a 6-0 run, back-to-back makes under the basket by Withey kept the Billikens from making a substantial run. When Releford pulled up for his third three-pointer of the half moments later, the Jayhawks promptly shifted back into a double-digit advantage, 21-10.
Meanwhile, the Releford show continued. After redshirt freshman forward Jamari Traylor swatted away a Billiken shot attempt, Releford converted the outlet into a fastbreak layup. The easy bucket pushed his first-half total to 14 points, extending KU’s lead to 25-10 with eight minutes to play. By the end of the first half, Releford had already topped his previous career high in threes made and by the final media timeout, the Jayhawks had doubled up the Billikens, 32-16.
SLU chipped away at the Jayhawks’ lead, cutting the margin to 11 as halftime neared, but Withey blocked a long jump shot and immediately drew a foul to go to the line. He made both free throws to send KU to the break up, 39-25.
Withey and Releford combined for all but eight of KU’s point in the first half on a joint 8-for-15 efficiency and 11-for-14 dual performance at the free-throw line. The Jayhawks finished the half shooting 11-for-26 (42.3 percent), and kept SLU to only six field goals on 23 attempts (26.1).
A three-point play from Withey and an actual three from McLemore picked the Jayhawk offense up where it left off to start the second half. Again, the Billikens answered when they tried to cut the Jayhawk lead to single digits. SLU strung together an 11-5 run to narrow the gap, 50-39, but was quickly met a three-pointer from Johnson to highlight a 7-0 rally on the Kansas side.
KU remained steady, shooting an even 50 percent more than half through the second half, but SLU kept at it. Back-to-back threes from Ellis cut KU’s lead 61-51 with six minutes to play. Seemingly lulled out of interest, the Kansas-friendly Sprint Center was rejuvenated when Johnson found Releford down the court for a dunk – his only points of the second half.
Ellis did his part to ignite the SLU half of the crowd, hitting his third three of the half to cut KU’s lead to single digits, 65-56. That was as close as Saint Louis would get. Five late points from Withey and one last McLemore layup sealed the win, 73-59.
No. 12/11 Kansas will take a break for Thanksgiving before returning home to face San Jose State on Monday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
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