The Kansas Jayhawks added another notch in the win column Tuesday night, January 22, 2013. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy, but KU went to Manhattan and brought another Big 12 season win back home with them.
The Jayhawks hold the Wildcats to 35 percent shooting to win the first Sunflower Showdown of the season. Kansas State’s self proclaimed “Octagon of Doom” arena didn’t intimidate this Kansas team. In reality, Kansas has only lost once in Kansas State’s current Bramlage Coliseum.
Through determination, tough defense, rebounding and scoring points in the paint, Kansas was able to edge the Wildcats. Senior center Jeff Withey’s tallied his seventh double-double of the year. Kansas State did hold Kansas to a season-low 59 points. By game’s end Ben McLemore had tallied 11 points on 57 percent shooting (4-for-7) while only scoring 2 points in the first half. Senior guard Travis Releford led the team with 12 points, missing only one of his six shots. Senior guard Elijah Johnson and freshman forward Perry Ellis each chipped in eight points.
It was an up and down game as Kansas reached a double-digit lead only once, but trailed just twice in the win. Each run by Kansas to expand the lead to 8 or more was met with a mini-run by Kansas State with timely three point shots and nasty defense.
The win highlighted Kansas’ talent laden roster. McLemore was blocking shots on pure athleticism, Naadir Tharpe was making jump shots, Releford was driving to the bucket and Withey was blocking shots. Don’t let the parts outshine the sum of the team as they worked together on selfless fast break pass and scores, passing to the open man and communicating on defense.
Kansas found themselves facing yet another tough Big 12 road game that came down to the last seconds as Kansas State refused to go quietly. KSU’s Southwell hit back-to-back three-pointers to help bring the Wildcats within five, 54-49, under the last media timeout. KSU sophomore forward Thomas Gipson muscled in for a bucket under the basket and Southwell converted a steal into an uncontested layup on the other end to cut the KU lead to three with 37 seconds to play, 56-53. The next play resulted in Tharpe facing a hostile crowd as he stepped to the free-throw line with 22 seconds to play, but he sunk them both. Johnson added one more to seal the 59-55 victory.
Kansas had better buckle up as each and every Big 12 team is going to bring their top game against the Jayhawks. There will be no easy games from here until the last game played.
Kansas returns home Saturday, January 26 against Oklahoma at 3 P.M. on ESPN.
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