Taylor, Withey lead Jayhawks in victory

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Battling back from a 12-point second half deficit on the strength of standout performances from Tyshawn Taylor and Jeff Withey, the Kansas Jayhawks took care of business Saturday evening, defeating Iowa State 82-73.

As halftime speeches go, Kansas head coach Bill Self will be the first one to admit his Saturday effort didn't really achieve the desired effect.

"My halftime talk was good," he said, smiling ruefully. "We go in down three and come out, and go down 12. So obviously that was great, whatever adjustments we made."

Indeed, the situation was beginning to look decidedly bleak for the Jayhawks in their Saturday afternoon match-up with Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse. After a first half that saw them down as many as 11 to a Cyclones squad that was scorching hot from beyond the arc (they connected on 7-of-13 attempts in the first 20 minutes), Kansas clawed its way back to within three at intermission, with the score 43-40.

As expected, in that first half Iowa State freshman star Royce White was a load. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound power forward scored 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out three assists in just 12 minutes of play.

"Iowa State is good," Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor said, of the early struggles. "They've got Royce White who can bring the ball up and penetrate, and they've got four guys who can stretch it. And tonight even their bigs stretched it a little bit, which we weren't really expecting."

With the Fieldhouse restless and just waiting for a reason to explode, the Jayhawks came out flat again to open the second half of play. Two free throws by White, a three-pointer by Scott Christopherson and a tip-in by White pushed the lead out to 52-40.

To that point in the game, the defense designed by Cyclones head coach Fred Hoiberg had done a reasonable job of containing Kansas superstar forward Thomas Robinson. Shadowing him with two players at virtually all times in the post, the plan was to let defenders sag of junior center Jeff Withey in the high post.

Their reasoning was sound, as though the seven-footer is an excellent free-throw shooter, he hasn't shown much of a desire thus far to take the 15-foot jumper in the flow of the offense.

Until he canned one with 16:55 left in the second half, however.

"We shoot those shots every day in practice, but (being) wide open like that kind of messes with your head," Withey said. "I just need to get more confident shooting that. If teams play like that, it should be a field day for me."

In retrospect, that jumper is what kick-started the Kansas comeback - a surge that ended in an 82-73 victory and the Rock Chalk Chant echoing off the Fieldhouse walls.

Robinson's stat line was its usual, dependable self, as he scored 11 points, corralled 14 rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked three shots. It's what Kansas has come to expect from the All-American candidate.

But Saturday it was Taylor and Withey who led the charge. In the second half alone, Withey scored 11 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked six shots. And Taylor - a lightning rod for controversy among the Kansas fan base throughout the season due to his often inconsistent play - was nothing short of brilliant.

The senior point guard hit jumpers. He got into the paint at will, and found a way to make the right play at the right time seemingly every step of the way. In the second half, he scored 22 of his game-high 28 points, and finished the game with six assists and four steals to boot.

"He was great," Self said, simply. "He bailed us out offensively and guarded better the second half. He was terrific."

"I felt good," Taylor added. "I just felt like I was playing good and my team was counting on me, and I stepped up for them. I heard my bench going crazy the whole time; the crowd was going crazy. it's just one of those feelings that you get when you're playing good and you know the fans are with you and your teammates are with you."

Ironically, Kansas played some of its best basketball Saturday during a significant stretch late in the second half when Robinson was on the bench. Given the depth issues with which the Jayhawks have struggled at times this season, that should provide a confidence boost to the rest of the team.

"The whole thing is, he's gotta come out sometime," Self said. "He still played 32 minutes, but it's one of those things where we were able toe it him for five straight minutes, six straight minutes, and they kept saying 'You want to put Thomas back in?' And I said 'No, we're rolling now.' I think he was as happy as anybody sitting over there that we got rolling."

Though the comeback victory over a quality Iowa State squad was impressive, there's little time for celebration. The Jayhawks have a quick turnaround ahead of them, and a Big Monday showdown with the No. 4 Baylor Bears looming.

"They're terrific, and they play zone and it's different," Self said. "And of course we can't simulate length in practice, but I wish we had more than one day to prepare for their zone even though know they're playing a lot more man."

Taylor was the offensive leader in points with 28, but four Jayhawks scored in double figures Saturday. Withey had 13, Elijah Johnson had 12 and Robinson had 11. Both Robinson and Withey logged double-doubles, pulling down 14 and 11 rebounds respectively.

Tip off Monday is set for 8:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

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