During Kansas' 70-57 win over San Jose State on Monday, center Jeff Withey continues to make his case that he is the best defensive big man in the nation. He was the second Jayhawk of all time to record a triple double. He finished Monday's win with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 blocks.
Kansas coach Bill Self after the game said Withey won the game for them. His teammates said that at times they were caught watching him bail out the team defensively.
"Jeff saved us a lot of times," Kansas guard Elijah Johnson said. "There was a lot of times where I caught myself looking at him like I wasn't a part of the game and it's something that shouldn't be happening with the seniors or anybody on the court. I feel like we have to help Jeff, because he's doing a lot out there and it's heavy load on him. It's a big help for us to know that even if a man beats us on the dribble he only completed half the task."
Offensively, Kansas had one of its worst games in recent memory. Aside from Withey getting points in the paint, the team struggled with ball movement and creating open shots. At one point they went almost ten minutes in the second half without a field goal. Self admitted after the game that Johnson's knee has been bothering him which limits how Self can use him. Still, the guard play needs to step up.
"It starts with the guard position," Self said. "If you have a pit bull out there or an assassin, everybody will follow. We really are just out there playing station-to-station. If you make shots, you look good, but if you go 0-for-7 from three, you don't look very good. Take away lobs to Ben, how did he score today? We have to figure some things out, but it was still a win. It's early in the season, and we knew we'd have growing pains."
San Jose State capitalized on KU's offensive struggles and stayed in the game through most of the second half. They were powered by guard James Kinney's 30 point game. San Jose State head coach George Nessman pointed out that Kinney's creativity in getting open looks helped fuel his big night.
"He sometimes comes out of the system and just sort of makes some things up but he was able to make a lot of plays for us when we needed some support," Nessman said. "We were struggling to get baskets there for a long stretch and James kind of got us going and the other guys fed off his energy and it got us back in the game. James is a big scorer, he was last year for us, so we're not surprised he could score."
Kansas is back in action on Friday against Oregon State on Friday at the Sprint Center. Self will give his players tomorrow off and will have two days to practice. Self said it will be the biggest team size wise they will have gone up against.
"They'll play volleyball with it on the backboard if we can't compete harder than that," Self said. "Our 6-foot-7 guys play like they're 6-5. That's ridiculous. Those guys that are short have to play bigger than their standing height. We're just not playing to our athletic ability at all right now. We're so passive as far as being active and going after the ball."