Throughout the course of a basketball season, you will get all different varieties of games and wins. For the Kansas Jayhawks, Saturday’s 67-54 win over the Oklahoma Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse won’t go down as the prettiest, but what is pretty is their record.
The Jayhawks improve to 18-1 and 6-0 in the Big 12 with their 17th consecutive win and when the new polls come out Monday, they will likely be ranked number one in at least one poll. However, Kansas coach Bill Self will remain modest and is blunt about whether his team should garner the top spot in any poll.
“No, nor are we deserving,” Self said when asked if he thought his team was ready for the challenge of the top spot. “Somebody’s got to do it, so if it were us, that’d be great. I never would have thought before the season this team could be ranked number one at the time, so that’s great for our kids.”
After a tough win against an improving Sooners team though, Self offered a warning to his team, should they find themselves atop the polls, as they travel to Morgantown, WV to face West Virginia, Monday night.
“I think after today, our guys know that our success winning will be short lived if we in fact we don’t come with a different focus.”
Against Oklahoma (13-5, 4-2), the Jayhawks struggled on the offensive end, especially on the guard line, but were bailed out but tenacious defense, led by senior center Jeff Withey, who was active on both ends of the floor, amassing 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. It was his versatility, which made him stand out. Withey had three steals, which triggered fast breaks, one of which he led and included a Withey breakaway which led to a dunk that ignited the 16,300 fans inside Allen Fieldhouse.
“He was terrific. Jeff was great.” Self said. “The mistakes we made in the first half, he erased a lot of them, which led to points.”
Kansas led 29-21 at halftime, but did so struggling from the field and until halfway through the second half, had more turnovers than assists.
In the second half, the Jayhawks used a 41-31 advantage on the glass and terrific defense to open a 49-35 lead after a Ben McLemore three pointer with 8:46 to play. McLemore finished with a quiet 18 points and seven rebounds on five of 10 shooting, which included three of five on three pointers. Senior forward Travis Releford was the only other Kansas player in double figures with 10 points.
And while, Self acknowledges their need for improvement, others also acknowledge that they are at the top of the league and have the opportunity to do great things this season.“Yeah, I think they’re great,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They’ve got terrific athletes on the perimeter, a big shot blocker inside, guys that are very unselfish. Bill (Self) does a terrific job. They play the game the way it supposed to be played.”