Jayhawks hang on for Tuesday victory

LAWRENCE, Kan. – After racing out to a 19 point lead on the strength of a trio of outstanding first-half performances, the Kansas Jayhawks struggled with turnovers and mental lapses for much of the second half Tuesday night, hanging on to defeat an athletic and determined Long Beach State squad, 88-80.

Everyone who has ever played the sport of basketball, at any level, knows the feeling.

Those all-too-rare stretches on the court when the world goes a little soft around the edges, and ball almost seems to guide itself into the hoop. It's a beautiful thing.

Call it "the zone" or whatever, but for 20 minutes Tuesday night, the Kansas Jayhawks were feeling it. Thomas Robinson went 8-for-8 prior to intermission, canning several deep jumpshots and posting 18 points. Conner Teahan hit 4-of-5 three-point attempts, and Jeff Withey added four points, four rebounds and five blocks.

On the strength of their play, Kansas built a 19-point lead lead with 9:33 remaining in the first half - and they would prove to need every bit of it before the game was through.

Laboring through another stretch of poor decision-making and careless play, the Jayhawks held off a furious rally from visiting Long Beach State on Tuesday night that shrank the lead to four, before pulling away in the final minutes for an 88-80 victory.

Kansas turned it over a season-high 22 times versus the 49ers, the most since the 24 turnovers committed by the 2010 Jayhawks versus Missouri.

"The thing that is just so pitiful for a good team, good players, the last 24 points they scored the last 21 were off turnovers," said Head Coach Bill Self. "Our guards had zero assists and six turnovers the second half. It's hard to look good when you don't get shots."

Despite the second-half struggles, the strong play of the first half shouldn't be overlooked. Teahan's shooting and Robinson's overall abilities are known commodities - Robinson logged yet another double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds - but it was Withey's play that was most encouraging.

The junior center came just a hair shy of a triple-double, recording 13 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks - the most since Cole Aldrich blocked 10 against Dayton in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, a game in which he recorded his own triple-double.

Withey suffered a blow to the face in the second half that caused him to leave the game temporarily, but he came back shortly thereafter and didn't miss a beat.

"We're going to punch Jeff in the mouth before every game," Robinson teased afterward.

In Self's mind, Withey was the best player in the game - an intimidating presence on the interior who, for 31 minutes, played like the all-around talent and defensive stopper they need him to be.

"He did a really good job blocking and altering," Self said. "So I thought Jeff was a pretty big factor without question."

"The ball was just kind of flying my way today I guess," Withey added. "(Self is) definitely helping me get the mindset of going after every ball and being more aggressive."

As for the issues of the second half, Robinson said they're nothing the team hasn't encountered before. To him, their momentary bouts of ADD can be attributed to an inexperienced team and a young season.

"It kicked in," Robinson said. "I caught it, a couple of our guys caught it. We just got careless again. Like I said, it's still early. It's still early. As much as we don't want to keep turning it over, I'm glad we're doing it right now."

Robinson led all scorers with his 26 points, while Withey, Teahan, Travis Releford and Tyshawn Taylor also scored in double-figures. Teahan started in place of Taylor, whom Self said tweaked his knee in practice and whose status was undetermined until Tuesday's shootaround.

Everything was clearly fine, however, as he played 34 minutes.

Next up, Kansas will host Ohio State in one of the most highly-anticipated match-ups of the season to date. Tip-off is slated for 2:15 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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