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Jeff Withey bails out KU 'D,' takes top honor
1. Jeff Withey: Withey scored just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, but his defense was so overwhelming he still earns the No. 1 spot. Temple coach Fran Dunphy marveled multiple times at Withey's effort in the postgame press conference. "We were at the rim a lot late, and Withey just would not let us finish," Dunphy said. KU coach Bill Self later said Withey "bailed us out of everything." Withey just missed a triple-double, finishing with eight points, 11 rebounds and nine crucial blocks. The senior also influenced many other Temple twos while adding three assists to go with two turnovers in 33 minutes.
2. Kevin Young: Was KU's best player in the first half and its most clutch player in the second half. The senior scored a team-high 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting, but his best offensive plays came at the free throw line, where the 56-percent shooter made six of six, with all those coming after halftime. Young also added 10 rebounds, two assists and a block to go with a turnover in 29 minutes.
3. Travis Releford: Self said he blasted Releford for his poor play at halftime, but the coach also admitted the senior couldn't have played much better in crunch time for KU. Releford had a huge three to help ice the game and put KU up seven with 37 seconds left and scored 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting with 2-for-2 accuracy from three. He added four rebounds to go with an assist and two turnovers before fouling out in the final minute. Even with the impressive offensive numbers, it was probably the worst defensive game of the year for the normally reliable guard.
4. Ben McLemore: His clutch play came with 2:42 left, as he recorded KU's only steal and finished on the other end with a dunk to put KU back on top, 58-57. The Jayhawks didn't trail after that. Also, don't overlook that Self trusted McLemore to guard Temple's leading scorer Khalif Wyatt in the final two minutes with the game on the line. McLemore finished with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting with five rebounds in 38 minutes.
5. Elijah Johnson: Played out of control for most of the first half before looking like his attacking, 2012 NCAA Tournament self late in the second half. Took it to the rim twice in a row for layups to turn a 54-50 Temple lead into a 54-54 tie with under seven minutes left. The senior had too many turnovers (five) but also posted nine points on 4-for-10 shooting with nine assists in 37 minutes.
6. Naadir Tharpe: Solid game for the backup point guard, who helped fill in for Releford when he had foul trouble. In 19 minutes, Tharpe contributed six points on 2-for-3 shooting (1-for-2 from three) with an assist and two turnovers.
7. Perry Ellis: Despite an 0-for-4 shooting effort, Ellis seems to be gaining confidence and aggressiveness as the season goes along. He had two points, five rebounds and a block with no turnovers in 10 minutes.
8. Jamari Traylor: The freshman seems to still be a step behind on both ends. Traylor notched a point, two rebounds and a turnover in eight minutes.
9. Andrew White III: Self said White "didn't screw up" when subbing in during an important time in the second half, and the coach meant it as a compliment. White was part of the 3 trillion club Sunday, posting three minutes to go with no other statistic.
KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (91 points)
2. Ben McLemore (87 points)
3. Travis Releford (86 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (76 points)
T5. Naadir Tharpe (61 points)
T5. Kevin Young (61 points)
7. Perry Ellis (52 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (41 points)
9. Andrew White III (23 points)
10. Rio Adams (16 points)
11. Justin Wesley (7 points)