Kansas didn’t have just one hero as they came back from 13 points down to knock off Ohio State 64-62 and earn a trip to Monday’s national title game.
Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson all made play after play down the stretch to help seal up the win. Thomas Robinson was sensational in the second half. Deshaun Thomas probably deserves some of the credit as well, as his offensive woes and foul trouble were a catalyst for the Jayhawks in the second half.
That said, there was no one more valuable to Kansas than Jeff Withey.
The 7-foot center was sensational on Saturday night. You know that 5-for-19 line that Jared Sullinger posted? The majority of those misses can be attributed to the long arms of Withey. He finished with seven blocks and eight boards in 34 minutes, and he made have had an even greater affect on Sullinger than those numbers indicate.
“He really, really compliments what they have out there,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of Withey. “He seems to really know his role and take great pride in it.”
It isn’t a secret that Sullinger struggles when he is guarded by players that are bigger than him. The key for Withey was that he was able to hold his own on the block and not get bullied by the stronger Sullinger.
“He’s a big guy and a great offensive player,” Withey said when asked what he did to contain Sullinger. “It was definitely tough. I think my length kind of bothered him. I’ve guarded big guys before, and as long as my base was fine, my [arms] are a lot longer.”
That wasn’t the only reason that Sullinger struggled, however. Deshaun Thomas found himself in foul trouble for much of the second half. Without Thomas on the floor, Kansas was able to double-team Sullinger hard. So in addition to having to figure out a way to score over the much taller Withey, Sullinger had to deal with Thomas Robinson collapsing on him for much of the second half.
“I wasn’t expecting Kansas to double,” Sullinger said. “A couple times it caught me off guard.”
With Sullinger struggling and Thomas riding the pine, Ohio State simply did not have enough offensive weapons to hold off the Jayhawks, and as a result, they are heading home.