Kansas extends dominance over Kansas State

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It was more than a battle for first place.
Third-ranked Kansas continued its dominance over cross-state rival Kansas State, beating the 11th-ranked Wildcats 59-55 Tuesday for its 23rd win in 25 all-time meetings at Bramlage Coliseum.
The victory gave Kansas (17-1, 5-0) the outright lead in the Big 12 Conference.
"It's extremely important to Travis (Releford) and our (seniors) with this being the last time they'll come over here," said Bill Self, who improved to 19-3 against Kansas State as coach of the Jayhawks. "This was their last chance. We wanted to leave out of here with a great taste. That's how we tried to spin it.
"They've got great players, and they're very deserving of their ranking. Any time we win over here, we feel very fortunate."
Self's players tried to downplay the significance of the win on K-State's home floor.
"It's not too much pressure (to continue the dominance). It's just another conference game," senior Jeff Withey said. "If anything, we look forward to this game because it's a lot of fun in a hostile environment. This is the best crowd we're going to get, besides our home crowd."
Kansas extended the nation's longest winning streak to 16 games. Kansas State's winning streak was stopped at eight games, the Wildcats' longest since winning 10 in a row in the 2009-10 season.
The Wildcats (15-3, 4-1) were disappointed to come up short again in the rivalry game.
"I'm upset that we lost that game," said senior Rodney McGruder, who has tasted victory over Kansas only once in his four years in Manhattan. "It's the last time I'll play them here. But as coach said, we have to get ready for Iowa State Saturday. We have a lot of basketball left. This can't be the end of it."
Withey was a huge factor inside, despite not having any blocks for the first time all season. His presence caused Kansas State to attempt a season-high 30 3-pointers. The Wildcats hit only nine of the long-range shots.
"We relied on the three-ball, obviously, but that's something that they give you," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "You've got to hit the open ones and make them defend you a little bit. We didn't do that.
"Somewhere along the line, we've got to get some more inside looks. Withey makes a difference. He didn't have a block, but maybe that's because we didn't go in there."
Releford also had a big game on the defensive end, holding McGruder to just two points in the first half and 13 for the game. McGruder shot 4-for-12 overall.
"I think I did real well in the first half making him uncomfortable and not letting him get easy looks at the rim," Releford said. "We knew he was going to be the guy. I looked at film, and I knew they liked to run him on tight curls off of screens. He couldn't get much going in the first half."
Releford led Kansas with 12 points. Withey added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Ben McLemore contributed 10 points for the Jayhawks.
Shane Southwell led Kansas State (15-3, 4-1) with 19 points. Angel Rodriguez had 12 points and eight assists for the Wildcats.
McLemore scored seven straight points for Kansas in the second half to help the Jayhawks pull away. First, he followed a Withey miss. After Southwell hit a jumper to cut the lead to five points, McLemore hit a 3-pointer, then added a 15-foot jumper to give Kansas a 53-43 lead.
Kansas State could get no closer than three points the rest of the game.
The Wildcats started the second half with McGruder 3-point basket to cut the lead to 31-30, but Kansas went on an 8-0 run to open up the largest lead of the game at that point.
Kansas State was able to stay in the game in the first half despite shooting just 34.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range.
The fact that K-State shot twice as many 3-point shots as Kansas kept the lead from being larger.
Kansas State's strategy early on was to keep the ball away from Withey, who is second in the nation with 4.6 blocks per game. The Cats took 16 3-pointers in the first half, making only four. Will Spradling was 0-for-4 and McGruder was 0-for-2.
Fortunately for Kansas State, Rodriguez was hot. After being held scoreless in both games against Kansas last year as a freshman, he scored nine of the team's first 14 points and finished the half with 12 points. He didn't score after the break.
NOTES: Kansas won its first 19 trips to Bramlage between 1989 and 2007 before Kansas State finally beat the Jayhawks in 2008, the year Kansas last won the national championship. .... Kansas State's three losses are all to teams currently in the top 10. The other two were against No. 2 Michigan and No. 10 Gonzaga. ... The all-time series is heavily in Kansas' favor, with the Jayhawks winning 45 of the past 48 to assume a 184-91 record all-time. In Manhattan, Kansas leads 75-45.

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