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3/22/13, 8:46 PM
Pullin an all-nighter... KU game then first flight out to Russia
3/22/13, 11:33 PM
Kansas is now 30-5 on the season and is the first school in NCAA Div 1 history to win 30 or more games in 4-straight seasons. #kubball
Western Kentucky is no TCU – which KU lost to earlier this season – but it did lead the Jayhawks into the second half. Despite that 2008 national championship, Kansas has recent tournament upsets at the hands of Bucknell, Bradley and Northern Iowa. A win by 16-seed over a 1-seed would have been a first since seeding began in 1985.
After playing that No. 16 seed we still know that Kansas struggles to score, has issues at guard and has seven-foot Jeff Withey to bail them out on both ends. Withey saved the Jayhawks on a night when they didn't have a three-pointer scoring 17 and blocking seven Hilltopper shots.
The overwhelmingly KU crowd at the Sprint Center – just 45 minutes from Kansas' campus – had to be nervous. Western Kentucky's best win this season has been over Arkansas State – No. 154 in Jerry Palm's RPI. TCU is No. 238.
The competition gets tougher Sunday. Kansas will play eighth-seeded North Carolina to go to the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks have beaten the Tar Heels by a combined 41 points in the previous two meetings since Roy Williams left Kansas.
CBS Dennis Dodd
In the scripted version of such things, the No. 1 seed does not need its all-everything senior center to carry it to a victory over a No. 16 seed that had not beaten a ranked team in three years.
But then again, Friday was not a neat or coherent day in the world of college hoops. This was a day of chaos. And in the middle of chaos, Kansas senior Jeff Withey emerged to exert a little order and stability.
In a nervous and tense night at the Sprint Center, Withey finished with 17 points, six rebounds and seven blocks as Kansas survived a scare in a 64-57 victory over No. 16 seed Western Kentucky.
“They kind of surprised us how good they were,” Withey said. “We definitely took them lightly, being a No. 1 seed (and) they came out and fought us real hard.
“We can’t let that happen.”
The Jayhawks move on to take on No. 8 seed North Carolina at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday. But first, they had to survive. This had never happened, of course. A No. 16 had never toppled a No. 1. And on Friday, the Jayhawks could never quite get comfortable. Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore finished with just 11 points in NCAA Tournament debut. And the Jayhawks finished with 17 turnovers and zero three-pointers. (They clanked all six attempts.)
“We were a little tight,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “And sometimes playing at home puts a little pressure on you.”
If Western Kentucky’s forward George Fant (10 points) hadn’t have fouled out early, or if the Hilltoppers had made some three-pointers — they were just three of 20 — the final result may have really been in doubt. Then again, Kansas wasn’t any better from the outside.
“We made one shot for the game from outside of 2 feet,” Self said.
There were 5 minutes left and Kansas had a chance for a transition slam, the kind of dunk that would have blown the roof off the Sprint Center — and brought a much-needed release from an anxious Jayhawks crowd.
Instead, redshirt freshman Ben McLemore chased after the kick-ahead pass and then went into a slide that took him over the end line.
Coach Bill Self flashed a quizzical look.
Fans near midcourt laughed, chortling, “What is he doing?”
By that time, fears that 16th-seeded Western Kentucky, which led the Jayhawks 31-30 at halftime, had eased, so the fans could have fun with McLemore’s latest (and funniest) miscue.
Kansas would continue to pull away on the way to a 64-57 win, but McLemore’s absence — and the Jayhawks’ sloppy play overall — has to be cause for concern moving forward.
“He’ll take this and he’ll learn from it,” senior forward Kevin Young said. “He’ll contribute more in the next game. … I remember last year and it was the same thing for me. It was just amazing to be there.”
The simple answer is to chalk it up to nerves, a suggestion McLemore shrugged off.
“Coach asked me if I was nervous, but I don’t think it was,” McLemore said. “I was trying to get my head into the game and I guess I was trying to be too focused. I didn’t want to mess up, especially my first time in the NCAA Tournament.”
Still, there is a difference between seeing March Madness and living it.
The Jayhawks also went 0-for-6 from three. It marked the first time in 201 games KU had gone without a made three. Last game without a three was a 100-90 victory over Baylor in 2008.
“I knew we’d pull it out,” Withey said. “We’ve been in this situation too many times.
“Coach got on us a little (after the game),” Withey added of Bill Self’s message. “At the same time, we won. He said we can’t come out like that Sunday or we’ll get beat by 20.”
In a game decided by just seven points, it would’ve been easy for the Western Kentucky men’s basketball players to look at the stat sheet and lament the team’s final shooting numbers during Friday’s 64-57 loss to top-seeded Kansas University at Sprint Center.
But leading scorer T.J. Price, who was largely held in check by KU’s Travis Releford, said the off shooting night was only part of the equation.
“I don’t think the numbers have to be a little bit better,” Price said. “But our defense did. They went on that big run, and that’s what got us.”
The run Price referred to turned a one-point WKU lead at the half into a 10-point KU lead late. But it was not one of those knock-out blows that the Jayhawks are famous for delivering. It was slow, deliberate, even painful at times. And it was enough to make the Hilltoppers smile about the scare they put into the Jayhawks, who improved to 30-5 and moved onto the third round, where they will face eighth-seeded North Carolina at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
“Heck yes it does,” said junior guard Brandon Harris, who shot 1-for-7 and finished with three points. “This whole week all we heard was we didn’t stand a chance, they were supposed to beat us by 40, people were clowning our mascot, but I think people knew who we were for that first 20 minutes, and they’re not gonna make fun of us any more, I can tell you that.”
It seemed like an entire NCAA Tournament had been played by the time Kansas took the court Friday at Sprint Center.
Kansas State’s season had already ended. Florida Gulf Coast had already dunked Georgetown. Marshall Henderson was already unwinding at Power and Light. People were lapsing into basketball-induced comas in their living rooms.
Then the Jayhawks took the floor, and it looked for a while like something could happen that would trump all of that and, arguably, anything else that has ever happened in the opening two days of the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 1 seed Jayhawks, playing in front of what amounted to a home crowd at Sprint Center, got a serious scare from No. 16 seed Western Kentucky before escaping 64-57.
"We're happy to advance," coach Bill Self said, "but certainly not pleased with how we played."
…It's a safe bet that North Carolina won't go 3-for-20 from 3-point range on Sunday, so the Jayhawks know they need to play better if they hope to advance.
With the upset averted, Johnson was free to say what everyone had been thinking.
"I think personally it's just part of human nature to not be as prepared for a smaller team," he said. "But a North Carolina-Kansas game, I think everyone comes to play. There's going to be so much juice in the building. Roy is coming back. There's going to be a lot of fans pumped up. We'll be pumped up.
"We got the first one out of the way, so we're a little looser now. I think it will be a different attitude in the lockerroom."
You could almost say that Jeff Withey blocked history.
Or you could just say that history was driving down the lane, saw Withey and kicked it out to its teammate that missed the shot at history.
Either way, Western Kentucky was nearly the No. 16 seed that did, but Jeff Withey scored 17 points off 7-of-8 shooting and dragged the Jayhawks across the finish line in their 64-57 win over the Hilltoppers.
“Jeff always bails us out,” forward Kevin Young said. “That’s his job. He’s a senior and he’s a leader. We put everything on his shoulders.”
It’s only natural that a bigger team like KU, playing against an undersized mid-major like Western Kentucky, would want and need to take advantage inside.
The first basket of the game came from Withey inside, as did the Jayhawks' second score. Six of KU’s first eight points came from its seven footer.
“We knew we had a size advantage with me and Kevin,” Withey said. “We definitely wanted to go inside and establish that, so that was our game plan.”
Maybe there’s something about the Sprint Center. Maybe there’s just something about the postseason. Whatever it is, Kansas freshman forward Perry Ellis continued rapid, late-season evolution in the Jayhawks’ 64-57 win over Western Kentucky on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"He’s been so impressive lately, you just see that confidence building and building," Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe said. "And tonight, where the guards aren’t playing very well we had to rely on the big guys a lot and Jeff (Withey), Perry and Kevin (Young) all stepped up."
Ellis had nine points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes against the Hilltoppers, and was one of the few sources of offense Kansas was able to rely on in a first half where no outside shots seemed to go in.
"We were just playing here last week, same stadium, same amount of people but this definitely felt different," Ellis said, referring to Kansas’ Big 12 championship. "That’s because the stakes are so high. It’s not something you can really experience until you’re in it."
Ellis was even confident enough to go to Kansas point guard Elijah Johnson and tell him a particular post move was going to be there "all day" if he found him in the right spot. That move came from the right block, where Ellis posted up and went to the same move several times, a 2-3 dribble progression into the lane, head fake and the shot.
"I just saw that part of the post was open every time," Ellis said. "I went to (Johnson) and told him to be looking for me on that side. I’m getting more confidence and my teammates are seeing that."
Ellis, who won four straight Class 6A titles at WIchita Heights, even had a basket and the foul — he didn’t make the free throw — where he adjusted in midair and went to his left, non-shooting hand to convert the bucket.
"I just had to react," Ellis said. "I got in the air and it was just instinct, really."
“They tried just spreading me out and kind of playing one-on-one versus me,” Withey said. “During the second half me and Kevin (Young) kind of switched and I was able to play against No. 20 (6 foot, 10 inch Aleksejs Rostov). I felt more comfortable doing that just because I could kind of clog up the paint a little more.”
Withey recorded five blocks in the second half and finished with seven for the game to complement 17 points and six rebounds. He and forwards Kevin Young and Perry Ellis combined for 31 points on 12-20 shooting and grabbed 21 rebounds. Kansas’ guards shot 7-20.
Even though the Hilltoppers outrebounded Kansas 18-4 on the offensive glass, the three Kansas big men helped keep the Jayhawks in the game during the first half when the guards reverted back to their midseason turnover-prone ways.
“We were fortunate to win,” coach Bill Self said. “We kind of out-uglied them a little bit which was enough to create some separation late.”
Self said he could tell his team was tight in the locker room, especially freshman Ben McLemore, who finished with 11 points and shot 2-5. But even though Kansas didn’t hit a single 3-pointer and the guards didn’t ever seem comfortable except when Kansas got out in transition and didn’t turn the ball over, the Jayhawks tightened their own defense in the second half.
Both teams made eight field goals in the second half, but Kansas attempted only 17 shots. Western Kentucky attempted 39. Without Fant, the Hilltoppers didn’t have anyone who could effectively create offense. Their leading scorer, T.J. Price, shot 3-13 and finished with 12 points.
“Just wanting it and understanding that this tournament is about defense, not offense,” Johnson said. “Anybody can score. But everybody can’t guard.”
Despite the horrible night from McLemore and the rest of the guards, Self said it’s a positive that Kansas proved it could win when its backcourt struggles.
“We’re a team that could labor offensively,” Self said. “A lot of times when the game’s a muddy game we got to make sure that we get muddier than our opponent.”
Even though Kansas lacked offensive rhythm all night, it looked pristine at the free throw line. The Jayhawks went 24-30 from the charity stripe and McLemore and Tharpe combined to go 9-10 from the line in the final minute.
When the curtain came up, they played tighter than Bruce Jenner’s face, sloppier than the loudest patron at closing time and about as harmonious as an eighth-grade garage band. Sometimes they wore sneakers. At other times, I could have sworn they were on roller skates, not quite sure how to stop themselves. They couldn’t shoot straight from long distance. Full-court pressure perplexed them into 17 turnovers.
Yet, the Kansas Jayhawks, No. 1 seed in the South region of the NCAA Tournament, withstood a stiff challenge from a quick and confident Western Kentucky team, 64-57. Kansas advanced to a Sunday game against North Carolina, which on Opening Day of the Kansas City pod anyway looked like the best of the eight teams in the Sprint Center.
How did the Jayhawks overcome themselves on a night they couldn’t hold onto the ball and didn’t make a single three-pointer?
Well, it never hurts to have the best big man on the floor, which Kansas almost always does in any game on any year.
Big 12/College News
3/22/13, 3:58 PM
#Big12Insider Announced attendance for Session 1 here at Sprint Center is 19,301
@MattNorlander: CBS had highest Thursday rating for NCAA tourney in 22 years.
The order of the top six favorites remains the same, but there are changes after that due to the stunning upset of Georgetown by Crazy Go Nuts University. The team that should be least appreciative of this result is Kansas because it’s now more likely they must go through Florida to get to Atlanta, and that is reflected in their chances of a title dropping from 4.2 percent to 2.8 percent. Syracuse is a mover in the opposite direction due to their comically easy win over Montana on Thursday.
Arizona benefits dramatically from the chaos in the West Region, but mainly from drawing an easier round of 32 opponent. Also, La Salle’s two wins took it from a 1-in-11,000 shot to about 1-in-900. By the way, my sympathies to Kansas State. Why were Boise State and La Salle 13-seeds, again? The other 13-seeds in the bracket were significantly worse and I’m not sure what K-State did to deserve having to play the tough 13.
The round of 32 log5 table is below…
The string of Roy Williams' greatest hits just kept on coming Friday night.
• At least once the 62-year old North Carolina coach had one of his “spells” on the sideline against Villanova. You've got to know Roy. Sometimes he gets up too fast while crouching near the bench. The light-headedness makes him pause to compose himself. It's his thing. There is nothing to worry about. Williams has been doing this for his 25 years as a head coach.
• With slightly less than 16 minutes left in Friday's 78-71 win over the Wildcats in a South regional opener, Williams was so upset at his five players on the floor that he subbed in a new five. Again, another Roy trademark -- the hockey line change. The bench jockeys played for a minute and a half. The motivational message had been sent.
• Any milestone for Williams wouldn't be complete without another trademark: His whining. In the middle of the postgame press conference, in the middle of a lifetime achievement, Williams became upset that it was all about him. Never mind he had his 700th career win came with a team that looked aimless in January.
“Whoever made that decision, tell them I think it stinks,” said Williams, whose players were required to linger on the podium while the media asked about No. 700. “Tell the tournament committee that's one dumbest damn things they've ever done.”
Ah, vintage Roy. Some things never change. And sometimes Williams reminds that for all of his habits, there's a reason he could still do this for 10 more years and maybe get close to 1,000 wins. He plays a brand of basketball that kids enjoy. None of this half-court crap for Roy.
CBS Dennis Dodd
As North Carolina blew a 20-point lead but still topped Villanova, 78-71, those in the crowd who once cherished Williams as their coach — just about everyone, mind you, with Kansas playing in Friday’s nightcap — waited patiently for a resolution.
What they saw, whenever they happened to look up, was Williams’ 700th career victory.
This is his silver anniversary as a head coach, including 10 years with the Tar Heels after 15 with the Jayhawks. Williams reached the 700 mark faster than any active coach, getting there in 879 games.
Yes, he remembers when it all began.
…Williams was responsible for 418 wins with the Jayhawks. Of those, 42 came in Kansas City. Now, he can count a 43rd after a successful Sprint Center debut.
“The 700, that’s neat,’’ he said. “It’s a lot of players at Kansas and North Carolina that have made that happen, and I realize that. I’m very fortunate to be a coach. I’m doing exactly what I want to do.
“I’ve had great youngsters who have bought into what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to say, and they’ve made it look really, really good.’’
With that, Williams grew irritated that questions could be directed to him, while flanked by his players. Previous NCAA policy dictated that opening questions at any postgame news conference be posed to players only. That format changed this year, much to Williams’ chagrin.
Hey, you hear a little bit of everything if you’re around Roy long enough. The Tar Heels probably did too after Villanova required barely 11 minutes to wipe out North Carolina’s 20-point bulge.
Yet the Tar Heels survived and Williams achieved a milestone in a place he coached so many times before with KU. After the game, the UNC team greeted Williams with a jersey with the number 700 emblazoned on the front.
"When something like that happens, you usually like to have it happen at home where all your family and friends can be there,'' Williams said. "If I was going to choose another place, this place was fantastic for 15 years of my life.''
Two possessions, one final minute. Everything changes, and it happens in a blink. More than 18,000 people on their feet. Maybe a few hundred of them for LaSalle, the rest cheering for K-State, even the Kansas fans roaring through a remarkable comeback after a rotten first half.
The Wildcats, usually so measured and sturdy, saw their season dissolve with a mess of inconsistency in a 63-61 loss to LaSalle in their first game of the NCAA Tournament at the Sprint Center on Friday.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” KSU senior Rodney McGruder said.
The margins in this sport, and especially this tournament, are excruciatingly small. Millions of dollars and the public reputations of men ride a razor’s edge. K-State could not have played much worse in the first half, or much better in the first 16 minutes or so of the second half.
The difference between an all-time comeback and a footnote as one of this year’s tournament flops is a final minute that went limp.
What transpired in the ensuing two hours will stand as one of the most improbable outcomes in the history of the tournament. A victory of the commoner over the king. Yet among flesh-and-blood athletes, it was quite something else. FGCU (and soon these Eagles will need to shorten that mouthful) defeated Georgetown, 78-68, not in some watered-down hybrid of pure basketball meant to equalize unequals, but rather on the shoulders of a five-minute, second-half hail of defensive pressure, fearless high-speed offense and ridiculous long lob passes converted in rattling dunks that reduced Georgetown to ponderous (and eventually sullen) spectators. It was jut the seventh time in the 64-team era that a No. 15 seed had knocked off a No. 2, (though the third time in two years, after a gap of more than a decade)."You know,'' said Georgetown coach John Thompson III after the game, "They outplayed us tonight.'' It was a staggering four words of understatement. Georgetown has lost five consecutive game to double digit seeds, an ignominious record.
"We're long, we're athletic and we like to run,'' said Enfield, standing outside the FGCU locker room long after the win. "I felt if we could get Georgetown into our kind of game, we have a real good chance to win.'' These words are antithetical to the concept of the upset, which is often achieved when a slower team grinds a faster one down to its speed; and to the nature of college basketball in 2013, where half-court offense is so tightly managed and coaches so controlling that scores struggled to reach 60. FGCU, located in Fort Myers, Fla., is the opposite of all that.
Frank Haith may not lose his job due to NCAA investigation, but he is going to need to win an NCAA game soon to keep it.
Beat writer quits after team loss
Ben Howland made it way too easy.
The embattled UCLA coach was supposed to scratch, claw and fight for the remaining two years on his contract and, perhaps, have his team -- a group of players assembled with the most hype this side of Kentucky -- ready to play, rather than resigned to play, in the NCAA tournament. But instead of playing like they were backed into a corner, the coach and his sixth-seeded Bruins decided to exit stage left, losing rather haphazardly to No. 11 Minnesota 83-63 in the round of 64 on Friday at the Erwin Center. Now the wonder around Westwood is whether Howland will be shown the door after 10 seasons.
That's been the speculation. Howland has certainly provided enough kindling to fuel the rumors with less-than-stellar NCAA showings since 2008, the last of three consecutive Final Four runs -- and, this season, less-than-stellar results with what was the nation's second-rated recruiting class.
The Russian version of World Wide Wes?
Salon.com: Could this man control college basketball?
Atlanta Journal Constitution Player of the Year: Brannen Greene
Brannen Greene, a 6-foot-7 forward from Tift County, is the No. 1-rated senior basketball prospect in Georgia. He averaged 27.0 points, seven rebounds and five assists and signed with Kansas.
Here are some lesser-known facts about The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification boys state player of the year.
1. Greene’s parents are former basketball players at Pittsburg State in Kansas. Both are assistant coaches on Tift County’s varsity basketball teams. Jeffrey Greene, a former Southwest Macon star, is 6 feet, 5 inches. Lori Cantrell Greene is 6-2.
2. Greene got his first scholarship offer from former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt the summer after his eighth-grade year. He settled on Kansas after making 10 campus visits. “I’d take a walk from the hotel on one end of campus to the fieldhouse on the other end,’’ Greene said. “Every time I did that, I would run into the college kids, and they’d say, ‘Hey, you’re Brannen, aren’t you?’ They all knew me.’’
3. Greene has a 4.0 GPA. His “far-fetched’’ ambition is to be a heart surgeon.
4. Greene played on AAU teams with older players, even if it meant less playing time. “Having to guard Shannon Scott (now at Ohio State) in practice and learning from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia) was more valuable than coming away with 30 points,’’ his father said.
5. Greene transferred to Tift County from Mary Persons, a Class AAAA school that changed coaches twice in Greene’s three seasons, had not won a playoff game since 1968 and declined invitations to national tournaments that coveted Greene. “I wanted a chance to win a state championship and play at the highest level,’’ Greene said.
6. At Tift County, Greene joined another major blue-chip prospect, junior guard Tadric Jackson. They met several years ago at a tournament. Jackson frequently visited Greene and trained with Greene’s father.
7. Tift County was ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAA when upset by North Cobb 68-63 in the quarterfinals. The Blue Devils blew a 14-point lead. “I just stood there shocked for about 30 seconds on the court,’’ Greene said. “I never at one point thought we were going to lose until they made those quick seven points. It was very tough to take.’’
8. Greene is a friend of Maya Moore, the former Collins Hill star and NCAA player of the year at Connecticut. Greene watched the high school state finals in Macon as a seventh-grader, and Moore approached him, recognizing him as a budding AAU star. She signed an old basketball that Greene brought. Moore later tried to persuade Greene to go to UConn. The Huskies were Greene’s second choice.
9. Greene is a scorer. “He’s 6-7, and he’s probably the best shooter in the state,’’ said Darron Rogers, coach of Westlake. “Then he handles the ball like a point guard, and he’s big enough that he can take you in the post. And he can guard his position. Those are professional athlete attributes.’’
10. Greene had no regrets about going to Tift County, which played in showcase events in Massachusetts and Florida and won a region title. “I didn’t get to accomplish everything I wanted,’’ he said, “but the season overall was very positive. I built friendships I didn’t have. There are things I can look back on in 10 years and be happy about.’’
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