All basketball fans wanted to think about Tuesday was Saturday’s clash between Kansas and Ohio State. Who can blame them? The Final Four rematch promises to be one of the early season marquee games around the nation. But, for the Jayhawks, there was one more obstacle in the Richmond Spiders.
However, any fears of Kansas overlooking their upstart visitors disappeared as fast as Jeff Withey can reject a runner in the lane, as the Jayhawks destroyed an opponent for the third consecutive game, beating them soundly 87-59. At 9-1, attention can now turn to their big tussle in Columbus.
“It’ll be good for us to go up there and see how tight our huddle is, see if we can focus and see if we can spend the energy in the building in our favor and find out how tough we are,” coach Bill Self said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Self could afford to be a little more relaxed after Tuesday night because his team suffocated he Spiders with an 18-0 run in the first half, in which Richmond went eight minutes without a field goal.
The catalyst of the Jayhawks effort was senior center Jeff Withey who put together an all around solid effort with 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Withey passed former Jayhawk Scot Pollard for fifth on the school’s all time block list.
Overall, four Jayhawks including Withey scored in double figures. Forward Ben McLemore scored 14 points on five of nine shooting and two of three shooting from three-point range. He also pulled down seven rebounds.
Senior forward Travis Releford scored 11, as did guard Nadir Tharpe, who came off the bench to drain three threes en route to his 11 points.
“I thought he played well,” Self said. “He guarded the ball harder, he got over ball screens, he was just more aggressive.”
The Jayhawks turned a 39-18 halftime lead into a runaway in the second half, stretching the lead to as much as 37. Once the job was done, it was time to look ahead to the Buckeyes.
“We’ve done a good job holding serve at home and playing with energy,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Now we’ll find out how good we are, though. Let’s be serious: The season starts Saturday.”
For Kansas, Saturday’s game in Columbus will mark the team’s first true road game of the season and could serve as a litmus test on the team’s progress through the season’s first month and a half.
“We've played on a neutral floor. We've played at home. We've played great shooting teams. We've played good driving teams,” senior guard Elijah Johnson said. “I feel like the only thing we haven't done is go to somebody else's house and try to bring the pain.”