Jayhawks beat K-State in Manhattan in a match up of the best of the Big 12
By Nathan Fordyce
And even though that team, the Kansas State Wildcats, is ranked No. 11 in the nation, and even though the Jayhawks were ranked No. 3 in the nation, and even though both teams were sitting atop the Big 12–none of that mattered.
It didn’t matter because despite the close, hard-fought game, the Jayhawks won yet again in Manhattan and improved their record there to 23-2.
It’s difficult to say that the in-state rivalry of two top-15 teams isn’t worth the time and day, but it isn’t worth the rivalry that some, if not many, thought this battle would supplant the Civil War, it just won’t.
The battle between the two top teams in the Big 12, was in fact a physical, well-played game just like it always is between the Wildcats and Jayhawks. But it was the outcome that was so eerily similar. With the 59-53 victory, the Jayhawks improved to that 23-2 record in Manhattan.
One of the stars of the game for the Kansas Jayhawks was senior guard Travis Releford. Releford is known for his defense and his defense was on great display.
Getting the call to guard Kansas State’s best player, senior guard Rodney McGruder, Releford was up for the task. He held McGruder in check for most of the game before he caught fire in the middle of the second half. But the stifling defense held McGruder to 4-of-12 shooting and just 13 points.
“Starting out in the first half, I think I did real well, making [McGruder] uncomfortable and not let him get easy looks at the rim. I think in the first half he had only two points. The second half my teammates continued to help me by letting me get through down screens. I just continued to do whatever the team needed me to do, because we knew that he would be the guy they were going to go to on offense,” Releford said.
Releford added a proficient night on the offensive side of the ball as well as he went 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 from three as he tallied a team-high 12 points.
The man who consistently kept the Wildcats in the ball game was junior forward Shane Southwell. Southwell caught fire from behind the arc and put in 5-of-11 from downtown for a game-high 19 points.
For the game, both teams struggled getting consistent offense and the Jayhawks held the Wildcats to just 35 percent shooting.
Freshman guard Ben McLemore was a non-factor as he got in early foul trouble but still managed to drop 11 points. Along with McLemore and Releford, senior center Jeff Withey scored in double figures as he recorded his seventh double-double of the season as he put in 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
But one interesting statistic about Withey, despite him being the nation’s leading blocker, averaging 4.6 blocks per game, but in the Sunflower Showdown, Withey didn’t record a block. It was first time in 28 games that Withey didn’t record a block.
The victory will be well-credited for the Jayhawks, knocking off a top-15 team. But it isn’t all that important, especially trying to supplement the hated rivalry of Missouri
Even with the tough road victory, it was essentially a win away from home for the Kansas Jayhawks.
“Whenever you can get a win on the road, it is good. It is still early still. They are still going to win games,” Withey said. “It matters to the people Kansas, but as for the league, it is so early that it does not matter that much.”