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Western Kentucky vs Kansas

Top-seeded Kansas repels W. Kentucky's upset bid

CBSSports.com wire reports
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas coach Bill Self predicted this week that a No. 1 seed would someday lose to a No. 16.

He didn't know his Jayhawks would be trying to fend off being the first.

The South Region's top seed needed 17 points from Jeff Withey, and a series of foul shots from Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe down the stretch, to hold off scrappy Western Kentucky 64-57 Friday night and avoid another upset on a day full of them in the NCAA tournament.

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"We're pleased we won, and didn't play our best by any stretch," Self said. "They controlled the game for the most part. We're happy to advance, but certainly not pleased with how we played."

The Jayhawks (30-5), flummoxed by the Hilltoppers' full-court pressure, trailed 31-30 at halftime. Kansas eventually built an 11-point lead in the second half, but couldn't put Western Kentucky away until McLemore's two foul shots with 11 seconds left.

McLemore and Travis Releford scored 11 each for the Jayhawks, who wearily advanced to play No. 8 seed North Carolina and former coach Roy Williams in the South Regional on Sunday.

"A North Carolina-Kansas game, everybody comes to play," the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson said. "Roy is coming back, there's going to be a lot of fans pumped up, and we'll be pumped."

The marquee matchup between a pair of college basketball blue blood almost didn't happen.

North Carolina squandered a big lead before holding on to beat Villanova 78-71, and then the Jayhawks watched Western Kentucky do everything it could to spring one more upset.

Jamal Crook scored 13 points and T.J. Price had 12 for the Hilltoppers (20-16), who would have made history by becoming the first No. 16 seed to upend a No. 1 seed.

"We knew what we had to do," Crook said, "regardless of what seed we were."

Earlier in the day, No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast stunned second-seeded Georgetown, perhaps emboldening the Sun Belt champions. And on the same floor at the Sprint Center, 13th-seeded La Salle knocked off Kansas State and No. 12 seed Ole Miss beat fifth-seeded Wisconsin.

Alas, the undersized team in red couldn't hang tough with the bigger guys in blue down the stretch, allowing Kansas to reach 30 wins for the fourth straight season -- the first time that's happened in Division I men's basketball, after Memphis was forced to vacate the 2008 season.

"They kind of surprised us with how good they were, to be honest," Withey said. "We definitely took them lightly, being a No. 1 seed. They came out and fought us really hard."

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 16 seeds are winless against No. 1 seeds in 116 games, including Southern's heartbreaking 64-58 loss to Gonzaga on Thursday.

"I think the entire country got a glimpse of what they're made of, a lot of character, a lot of heart," Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper said. "A lot of people doubted us this season. We went through a lot of adversity, and adversity will tell you a lot about people."

Western Kentucky spent the first half pinning Kansas against the ropes.

Price hit an opener 3-pointer in the opening minute, George Fant was able to use his superior quickness against the bigger Withey in the paint, and the Hilltoppers -- who needed four wins to capture the Sun Belt tournament title and the league's automatic bid -- slowly built a 20-16 lead.

The heavily pro-Kansas crowd fell quiet, even as Jayhawks coach Bill Self turned up the volume on the sideline, laying into his team for its lethargic start.

Kansas finally pulled ahead for the first time since midway through the first half when Elijah Johnson finished off a three-point play that made it 28-27 with 90 seconds left, but a pair of baskets by Price down the stretch gave the scrappy Hilltoppers a 31-30 lead at the break.

The Jayhawks seized the lead again early in the second half when Kevin Young followed up his own miss by grabbing the rebound and throwing down a reverse jam, and then Releford scored off a nifty feed from McLemore, forcing Harper to burn a timeout.

Fant and Aleksejs Rostov both picked up their fourth fouls midway through the half, taking seats next to Harper on the Western Kentucky bench. But the longtime Division II and NAIA coach couldn't keep his hottest hands there for long, and decided to gamble by putting them back in.

Harper rolled snake eyes when Fant fouled out with 5:37 remaining.

Withey made one of two free throws, McLemore drove untouched down the lane for an easy basket, and Withey scored on a nifty move in the post to push the Jayhawks to a 52-42 lead -- their biggest of the game -- and force Harper to call another timeout with 3:44 left on the clock.

Western Kentucky started whittling into the lead in the closing minutes, and a 3-pointer by Crook made it 59-55 with 25.4 seconds left on the clock.

But the Jayhawks got the ball in the hands of Naadir Tharpe, and he made two free throws to provide them a cushion. Price misfired from beyond the arc, and Brandon Harris was long on another 3-pointer from the corner, as McLemore added two more foul shots to seal the Jayhawks' victory.

"Thankfully, we got the win," Withey said, "and that's all that matters."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Scoreboard
Western Kentucky #16 312657
Kansas #1 «303464
WKY:J. Crook 13 Pts
WKY:J. Crook 9 Reb
WKY:J. Crook 4 Ast
KANSAS:J. Withey 17 Pts
KANSAS:K. Young 8 Reb
KANSAS:N. Tharpe 3 Ast

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PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Western KentuckyKansas
WKY
Jamal Crook
KANSAS
Jeff Withey
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
13941761
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
T. Price, G333-134-662212
J. Crook, G315-133-594113
C. Dickerson, G310-50-02050
A. Rostov, C295-81-220411
G. Fant, F234-102-321510
B. Harris, G201-70-04013
O. Akamune, F132-60-06134
K. Anyigbo, F91-22-23014
K. Kaspar, G40-00-00020
S. Drane, F30-10-01000
T. Akol, F-CDid Not Play
N. Snipes, FDid Not Play
S. Sheldon, GDid Not Play
E. Alcantara, FDid Not Play
P. Blade, GDid Not Play
M. Vasquez, GDid Not Play
Totals 21-6612-183582457
 31.8%66.7% 
Kansas Jayhawks
T. Releford, G354-63-531211
E. Johnson, G351-63-34335
B. McLemore, G332-56-872211
J. Withey, C327-93-461417
K. Young, F292-41-28215
N. Tharpe, G150-34-40304
P. Ellis, F123-73-47029
J. Traylor, F61-20-00012
J. Wesley, FDid Not Play
N. Roberts, GDid Not Play
C. Garrett, GDid Not Play
R. Adams, GDid Not Play
L. Lucas, FDid Not Play
E. Manning, GDid Not Play
Z. Peters, FDid Not Play
T. Self, GDid Not Play
A. White III, GDid Not Play
Totals 20-4223-3035121564
 47.6%76.7% 
Conference USA
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
UTEP0-02-037
La. Tech0-04-1151
Old Dominion0-04-11
FIU0-03-1306
Marshall0-03-127
Middle Tenn.0-03-1326
North Texas0-03-1203
So. Miss0-03-1245
Charlotte0-03-220
UT-San Antonio0-02-2324
UAB0-02-3318
Rice0-01-2290
FAU0-01-3299
Western Ky.0-01-3313

Big 12
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Oklahoma St.0-05-0112
Texas0-05-041
W. Virginia0-05-014
Baylor0-04-094
TCU0-04-0168
Iowa St.0-03-117
Oklahoma0-03-1257
Texas Tech0-03-190
Kansas0-02-1129
Kansas St.0-03-2165
 
Other games
ALBA 61 Final
DUKE 73
MISS 57 Final
WISC 46
TEMP 76 Final
NCST 72
UOP 49 Final
UM 78
CIN 63 Final
CREI 67
LAS 63 Final
KSU 61
JMAD 62 Final
IND 83
COLO 49 Final
ILL 57
FGCU 78 Final
GU 68
IONA 70 Final
OHST 95
NOVA 71 Final
UNC 78
NWST 47 Final
FLA 79
OKLA 55 Final
SDSU 70
ISU 76 Final
ND 58
MINN 83 Final
UCLA 63