Kansas Jayhawk fans can all breathe a sigh of relief.
After being down a point at the half to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, the Jayhawks managed to stave off what would have been the first ever upset of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16. Kansas pulled away in the second half to win, 64-57.
Slowly but surely, Kansas started to increase the distance between itself and WKU in the second half. When the Jayhawks went up 10 points late into the second half, the game looked all but over.
Granted, Kansas did its best to keep the Hilltoppers in this game, committing 17 turnovers and letting its opponents claw to within four points with 25.4 seconds left in the game.
With the game in Kansas City, a win for Western Kentucky would have been even more improbable, considering it was a glorified home game for the Jayhawks.
It was just a case of Kansas simply having too much talent at the end. Of course it was that same talent that had largely been absent for much of the proceedings.
Part of the reason Kansas struggled so much was the performance of star guard Ben McLemore. He was quiet for most of the game and scored only 11 points on 2-of-5 shooting. Travis Releford was good but not great. He did get 11 points but only took six shots.
Without Jeff Withey, you have to wonder where Kansas actually would have finished this game. He was a beast on both ends of the court. He finished with 17 points, seven blocks and six rebounds, easily finishing as player of the game.
The Jayhawks failed to hit a three-pointer, going 0-of-6 for all 40 minutes. It's hard to believe that any team could win without making a single three-point shot.
Their foul shooting was a godsend, though, helping to seal the game at the end. Kansas did make the most of those opportunities, making 24-of-30 free throws.
Going against a Western Kentucky team that was only 20-15 coming into the game, you really expected more from such a talented Kansas team.
Who will win Sunday's matchup?
To be fair, though, while the Jayhawks' offense struggled, the defense was there for the entire game.
The Hilltoppers were always teetering on the edge offensively.
They didn't shoot the ball well in the first half, and sooner or later, it was going to catch up with them. Western Kentucky only managed to shoot 21-of-66 from the field, including 3-of-20 from three-point range.
Four WKU players managed to score in double figures, but that doesn't mean as much when it came on such poor shooting. Plus, it's hard to beat a team like Kansas when you only score 26 points in the second half.
Although, things could have been much different had the Hilltoppers not lost their best player in the second half. When George Fant fouled out of the game with 5:37 to play, there was almost no way back for the Cinderella.
ESPN's Darren Rovell reveals there might be a correlation between Adidas' wildly unpopular tournament uniforms and early tournament exits. Maybe it's a form of punishment from the fashion gods:
Could all 4 of the NCAA teams playing in the Adidas “Zubaz” uniforms lose today? Cincy, ND, UCLA and Kansas.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 23, 2013
RockChalkBlog was quick to praise the performance of Withey:
Dan Wolken of USA Today noted exactly how poor Western Kentucky was shooting the ball in the second half:
Western Kentucky is 4-of-28 in the half. Kansas just now getting a double-digit lead.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 23, 2013
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated wanted to give some props to the Jayhawks for the way they went ahead in the second half:
Credit Kansas for responding. Lead by 11 with 3 mins to go. Looks like we'll have to wait another year for our 16-1 upset.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 23, 2013
Andy Glockner of SI.com framed the win for Kansas as more of a war of attrition:
This Kansas game is like when you score the 11th most points in your FF league and played the only team that scored fewer that week.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 23, 2013
The Score thought Western Kentucky could have benefited from having Ali Farokhmanesh, who helped lead the Northern Iowa Panthers to an upset of the Jayhawks in 2010. If only eligibility wasn't a problem:
Western Kentucky could use Ali Farokhmanesh out there.— The Score (@theScore) March 23, 2013
The Jayhawks will meet Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels in the round of 32. Williams has coached against Kansas in the tournament on two previous occasions, losing both.