Teahan, Withey pace Kansas in victory

Teahan, Withey pace Kansas in victory

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Conner Teahan pumped in a game-high 21 points and Jeff Withey logged a points-rebounds-blocks triple-double, as the Kansas Jayhawks opened exhibition play with an 84-55 victory over visiting Pittsburg State University.

There are 200 minutes of playing time available to a college basketball team in a given game.

For the Kansas Jayhawks, 100 of those minutes were in street clothes on the bench Tuesday night- in the forms of Elijah Johnson, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor - for various reasons.

So the lineup for the exhibition opener versus Pittsburg State University looked a little...unconventional. And if Kansas head coach Bill Self was sweating a little bit as pre-game warmups wound down, it was due to more than just the unnaturally muggy interior of Allen Fieldhouse.

"I was kind of nervous before the game to be honest," Self said. "I was nervous."

As it turns out, he needn't have been. The Jayhawks rode a game-high 21 points from senior guard Conner Teahan and a triple-double from junior center Jeff Withey to an 84-55 victory over the Gorillas.

Teahan's shooting hand was incandescent from the get-go, as the Kansas City native scored the first nine points of the game for either team on a trio of three-pointers.

He wasn't necessarily looking to come out gunning, he said, but if the open shot is there he's going to take it.

"I haven't really played very much, as you guys know," Teahan said in the post-game presser. "But I just wanted to get the shots if I was open. If I was open I was going to take them, and I got a lot of open looks early on, so I was able to capitalize on those."

To Self, the former walk-on – now on scholarship – is going to be an integral component of the Jayhawks' success this season.

"Conner's our sixth man," he said. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about that. I like him as that, because if he's hitting he can stretch it and all those things. But we weren't going to probably win the game or have a chance to look very good unless Conner was offensive tonight."

Fortunately for Kansas, the senior was in a scoring mode, as the first half was more than a little ugly. With Johnson and Taylor on the sidelines - part of their punishment for an off-season violation of team rules - true freshman point guard Naadir Tharpe was thrust into the spotlight, a starting spot and big minutes in his first game as a collegiate athlete.

From him there were moments of brilliance punctuated by plenty of freshman mistakes - a theme which could be extrapolated out to the rest of the team during the first 20 minutes.

At halftime Tharpe had a handful of points and several pretty assists, but also seven turnovers. The Kansas offense was never able to get into a rhythm, and the two teams entered intermission with the Jayhawks clinging to just a five-point lead, 32-27.

Prior to the game, Self had informed Tharpe he was going to play 35 minutes Tuesday night, and it wouldn't matter if he turned it over every possession - he wasn't coming out. And the freshman put his coach's proclamation to the test.

"I thought Naadir was going to set the freshman record for turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game," Self said, with a wry smile. "But then calmed down and actually did some really nice things, too."

"I was a little antsy," Tharpe added. "But as soon as I came out in the second half, Coach talked to me as well as the team and I just settled down."

Collectively, the Jayhawks found their stride after halftime, and it didn't take long before they began to extend the lead.

Withey - mostly a non-factor in the first half - made his presence felt in the paint, frequently getting to the free throw line, grabbing boards and blocking shots. His play in the second stanza was likely a breath of fresh air for Kansas fans, who wondered if the talent-laden 7-footer would be able to step up and provide a complementary force to Robinson in the post.

Granted, Pittsburg State didn't feature a lot of team size, so the double-digit blocks might be a little misleading, Self said. But he was pleased with his big man's performance overall.

"But still though he's pretty good at staying down and walling up, and he's pretty good at blocking and altering," he said, of Withey. "I think he can be one of the better shot blockers in our league."

Withey went down briefly in the second half with an apparent left ankle injury, though he returned to play shortly thereafter.

"It's pretty sore right now," he said. "I'm sure it's going to be sore for a couple of days. I could play on it, obviously, so it's not that big of a deal."

While they were understandably pleased with the win, the Jayhawks know they have a lot of growing to do in order to reach their potential.

"It was just an exhibition game though," Teahan said. "So we're just kind of focused on getting better and know that there were a lot of flaws there tonight. But we're constantly improving."

Travis Releford contributed 14 points and six rebounds to the cause. Withey finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots, while Teahan racked up 15 of his 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Tharpe added 12 points of his own to go with eight assists.

Kansas wraps up exhibition play next Tuesday, Nov. 8, when Fort Hays State comes to town. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the Jayhawk Television Network.

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