Jayhawks look to follow Monday’s blueprint against Texas
- Feb. 15, 2013
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To Jeff Withey’s credit, the senior center doesn’t do anything halfway. Block records are no exceptions.
He only needs one block to tie former Texas Longhorn Chris Mihm for the Big 12’s career blocks record of 264.
Once Withey gets to 265 blocks, putting him solely in first place, he doesn’t plan on stopping. Not at 266. Not at 267. Not even close.
“I want to be able to beat it so it lasts 20 or 30 years,” Withey said. “Not so that next year somebody can beat it or the year after that. It’s definitely something special and I’m definitely proud of it. I need to still put some distance in it.”
Distance is a funny thing for the Kansas team this year. It seemed to have plenty of it during the first stretch of the conference race, when the Jayhawks won their first seven games. But the now infamous three-game losing streak put the Jayhawks in second place before they regained a tie for the lead with a victory against Kansas State Monday.
Way down the line in the Big 12 race is Texas, a team full of freshmen and sophomores enduring some of the biggest growing plains the team has faced in a long time.
But sophomore guard Myck Kabongo returned Wednesday night for the Longhorns after returning from a 23-game suspension for accepting impermissible benefits and subsequently lying about them. He scored 13 points, dished out seven assists, collected four rebounds and committed four turnovers in 35 minutes of action before fouling out.
Kabongo averaged only 9.6 points per game on 39 percent shooting as a freshman, so his return is unlikely to drastically change Texas’ fortunes this season. However, Withey noted that having a player with Kabongo’s talent gives Texas a boost even if he doesn’t play great.
“Whenever you get somebody back that brings more energy to your team, more confidence,” Withey said.
Of course, Kansas has plenty of talent that could overwhelm Texas, even if it has Kabongo back. Sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe played one of his best games as a Jayhawk against Kansas State, finishing with seven points and eights assists against only one turnover.
His ability to penetrate the lane against the Wildcats led to easy dump-off passes to senior forward Kevin Young and dishes to freshman guard Ben McLemore on the wing for open 3-pointers.
“He’s been shooting the ball tremendously this year,” Tharpe said. “We need to find more touches for him to score the ball, easily. With us getting to the paint that’s how we’re going to make it happen.”
Self said Tharpe’s ability to drive the lane and force a second defender to slide off of his man to help defend him is key. Once Tharpe sees that second defender commit to playing help defense on him, he can pass to McLemore or another guard who will have any easier time making an open shot than beating a defender off of the dribble.
For Kansas’ offense to play as crisply as it did Monday night, Self said Kansas needs its point guard, whether that’s Tharpe or senior Elijah Johnson, to play aggressively and look to penetrate.
“A lot of Naadir’s situation is whether or not he’s in an aggressive mindset, aggressive mode,” Self said. “I think him staying aggressive, since he is fast and he is clever and he’s gotten good with the ball and he’s got good vision and he can make a shot. He just needs to be aggressive and drive it, then let that set up everything else.”