Withey Will Be Needed

Jeff Withey was more than ready when his number was called during KU's 89-66 victory over Iowa State Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.

The 7-0 foot KU sophomore center, who scored four points in the previous six games, responded by tying his career high with eight points on 3-of-3 field goal shooting and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe. Jeff Withey also added two blocks, two rebounds and a steal in just nine minutes.

KU coach Bill Self inserted Withey into the frontcourt rotation with the absence of sophomore forward Thomas Robinson, who is out approximately two weeks after undergoing surgery on a meniscus tear in his right knee Friday.

"It felt great," Withey said about his play. "All the guys were encouraging and telling me I was going to get some minutes. I just prepared over night. It's unfortunate what happened to Thomas. I just prepared and felt good."

Withey has played sparingly in conference action and received three DNP's in Big 12 play and five overall this season. Self was glad he rose to the occasion against ISU.

"I thought Jeff played well," Self said. "He just needs to be aggressive defensively going after the ball and blocking shots. It thought he did a nice job. He got two blocks in nine minutes and 3-of-3 from the field and made his free throws so that should give him some confidence moving forward. He hasn't played much lately. It's hard to play five big guys, but certainly he'll play moving forward, without question.

"We'll need him to play against K-State."

Withey felt fortunate to come up big two days before ESPN's Big Monday showdown against the Wildcats in Manhattan. He even had one nifty hook in the paint that drew some claps from NBA Hall of Famer and former three-term U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, who sat on press row.

"It's big," Withey said. "It's a big confidence booster, especially going into K-State. Having a game that I played pretty well, I think I'll be able to go into Kansas State and be more productive and help the team a lot more."

Withey will need to come up big against KSU's physical frontline. The Wildcats are the second-best rebounding team in the Big 12.

Teammate Marcus Morris, for one, believes Withey is up for the challenge.

"He has to step up and he knows it," Morris said. "Thomas Robinson is going to be out for a little bit, and it's his time to step up and show people he can play, and I think he will."

Withey is averaging 2.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.85 blocks in 6.7 minutes per game this season. Those numbers should elevate in the next two weeks in Robinson's absence. Morris thinks Withey will add a lot to the lineup.

"Just changing shots," Morris said. "In practice, he blocks my shots a lot, so I know what kind of shot blocker he is. Just having the big body, somebody like Cole (Aldrich) was last year and blocking shots ... is definitely going to benefit us because nobody can go in there (lane) and just take a layup because Jeff is so long and has great timing.

"Definitely on the defensive end, we're going to need him."

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