LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Nothing was going to stop Kansas (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) in the first half, not even 5-foot-9 Keiton Page.
The senior guard for Oklahoma State tried setting a screen on Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks' 6-foot-10, 237-pound forward, who steamrolled right over him."That was the game plan going in, for me to set more screens," Page said. "He got a hold of me over in front of the Kansas bench. It didn't feel too good."That pretty much summed up the first half Saturday, when Page scored 10 of his 19 points. Kansas held a commanding 51-24 lead heading into the locker room and withstood a big second-half comeback by the Cowboys for an 81-66 win."We've been through this before," said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford. "We've been punched in the mouth before. Our guys didn't like the taste of it at halftime."The first half was similar to the one Oklahoma State (12-13, 5-7 Big 12) played against Baylor on Jan. 14. The Bears led 46-31 at halftime and went on to win 106-65.This time, the Cowboys fought to within 12 at one point in the second half."Our guys decided to change it a little bit," Ford said. "It could have gotten worse, the day they were having. I told our team, Kansas is a Final Four-type team."Markel Brown led Oklahoma State with 21 points."They attacked the area and we didn't fight back until the second half," Brown said. "We had to turn it around the second half and show we're capable of playing with anybody."Jeff Withey finished with 18 points and a career-best 20 rebounds, while Robinson burnished his player of the year credentials with 24 points and 14 boards for Kansas (20-5, 10-2).Tyshawn Taylor added 12 points, Elijah Johnson had 11 and Travis Releford 10.Kansas spent the afternoon honoring the 1952 national championship team.The Jayhawks wore throwback uniforms, the cheerleaders were dressed in skirts that touched the floor, and a pregame video montage showed grainy, black-and-white clips of the team that knocked off St. John's in the final for the school's third national title.Several members of the team were introduced at halftime, including Bill Hougland and Clyde Lovellette, who was the MVP of the Final Four and later became a four-time All-Star in the NBA.Also on hand were Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who are good friends with Jayhawks football coach Charlie Weis. The three of them, whose ties extend to their days with the New England Patriots, sat together along the baseline.They had plenty to cheer about in the first half.The Jayhawks led 16-13 about 8 minutes into the game when they started to ramp things up, turning missed shots and turnovers into easy baskets at the other end. The few times the Cowboys got back on defense, Kansas simply ran its offense to create easy looks at the basket.The lead eclipsed 20 when Releford scored off a nifty feed from Taylor with 5:17 to play, and Elijah Johnson's 3 and a pair of foul shots by Robinson made it 51-22 late in the half.Kansas wound up shooting 64.5 percent before the break, outrebounding the Cowboys by a staggering 22-6. The Jayhawks also doled out 13 assists to just three turnovers -- six of them by Taylor, whose ball-handling and decision-making has improved dramatically this season.Oklahoma State tried to get back in the game in the second half, clamping down on defense and doing a better job of hanging onto the ball on offense.Page's 3-pointer with 8:01 left trimmed Kansas' lead to 66-52, and a basket by Le'Bryan Nash a couple minutes later made it 68-56, the smallest gap for the Cowboys since 28-17.Kansas managed to get things under control in time to wrap up its 10th conference win.The Jayhawks remained in a tie for the Big 12 lead with fourth-ranked Missouri, which knocked off Baylor earlier in the day, despite the poor second half."We played awful," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "The first half was about the best that we could play, but we're so immature at this point. We took the second half for granted and played miserably down the stretch."
Jeff Withey had 18 points, 20 rebounds and 7 blocks vs Oklahoma St. He is the first Big 12 player in at least the last 15 seasons to reach those totals in a game. The last to do it from any conference were Hasheem Thabeet (UConn) and Larry Sanders (VCU) in the 2008-09 season.