Jeff Withey saves Kansas from historic loss to No. 16 seed Western Kentucky

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Center Jeff Withey saved No. 1 seed Kansas from an infamous loss Friday night in its opening game in the NCAA tournament.

Withey seemed to be the only Jayhawk who didn't struggle in a hard-fought 64-57 win over No. 16-seeded Western Kentucky. The Jayhawks didn't make a 3-pointer for the first time in more than five years (Feb. 9, 2008) and had their fans breathing a sigh of relief afterward.

A 16 seed has never beaten a top seed in the tournament but not many have come this close. Kansas's margin of victory was seven points, but Western Kentucky pushed the Jayhawks right up to the final seconds and if one or two more shots had fallen for the Hilltoppers, this could have easily gone the other way.

It wasn't exactly a confidence builder for Kansas.

Withey scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds but it was his seven blocked shots that made all the difference. Those blocks contributed to the Hilltoppers making just eight of 40 field-goal attempts in the second half after making 48 percent of their shots in the first half to take a one-point lead at halftime.

Kansas's reward for surviving is a Sunday game with North Carolina and former Kansas coach Roy Williams, who earned the 700th victory of his career Friday when the Tar Heels topped Villanova in game between 8 and 9 seeds.

North Carolina has won nine of its past 11 games. The Tar Heels turned around their season in February when Williams began using a four-guard lineup.

Kansas will have to be much more on top of its game offensively to topple the Tar Heels. Friday's performance, while concerning for coach Bill Self, seems more like an aberration from the Jayhawks and a very good defensive performance from Western Kentucky. One that almost made history.

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