Kansas leaning on Jeff Withey so far with Ben McLemore struggling in the NCAA tournament

Kyle Ringo

Kansas center Jeff Withey had himself a Sweet 16 Sunday at the expense of former Jayhawks coach Roy Williams and North Carolina and is off to a strong start in the NCAA tournament.

The senior from San Diego helped his team rally from a nine-point halftime deficit with 16 points and 16 rebounds to overwhelm North Carolina in a 70-58 victory, sending the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16 once again.

Withey's 17-point performance in the Jayhawks' second-round win over Western Kentucky might have saved them from an embarrassing defeat. He was even better against the Tar Heels.

Kansas has now beaten Williams in three NCAA tournament matchups (2008, 2012 and today) since Williams left Kansas for North Carolina.

It looked like it might be Williams' and the Tar Heels' turn to advance throughout the first half, but the Jayhawks roared out of the locker room and took command early in the second half and never looked back, scoring 49 points in the second half. It didn't hurt that Kansas was essentially playing a home game in Kansas City and overwhelmingly had the crowd at the Sprint Center on its side.

Withey helped whip the crowd into a frenzy with two big dunks early in the second half turning the momentum decidedly in Kansas' favor. Senior guard Travis Releford complemented Withey every step of the way scoring 22 points.

Releford stepped into the void created by the continued struggles of freshman guard Ben McLemore, who hasn't played well in four straight games spanning 10 days. McLemore scored two points on a pair of free throws but went 0-for-9 from the field.

McLemore's two lowest point totals of a the season have come in the past three games. He scored only five points in a Big 12 Conference tournament championship game win over Kansas State. Getting McLemore going again might be the key to whether Kansas continues to advance, unless Withey can continue to play at this level.

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