In the end, it merely was a victory lap, a coronation of sorts, as the four senior leaders of the Kansas Jayhawks basked in the warmth of 16,300 fans inside Allen Fieldhouse one last time.
For Kevin Young, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, it was a chance to reflect and to celebrate a career’s work. In reality, it was time to put it behind and prepare for the final chapter of this story, as together they lived in the moment played for each other in a 79-42 Senior Night rout of Texas Tech, that really wasn’t that close.
“It means it’s time to rock out, it’s time to got to business,” Johnson said in anticipation of the games that are to come this month. “I honestly think that the reason it hasn’t hit most of us as far as this being the last game is we’re so focus on what we got to do, so we’re not dwelling on the moment, we realize there’s stuff to be done.”
For a night however, Kansas (26-4, 14-3) crammed as many memories into one game as they could. Withey went out with 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks as well as igniting the crowd with his first career three pointer in the first half, which tied him with former Jayhawk Scot Pollard, who also finished his career one for one from beyond the arc.
“It’s awesome. Me and Scot Pollard are 100 percent on three point percentage,” Withey said jokingly.
Johnson dished out 12 assists, along with seven points. The dishes came in a variety of ways, but many were lobs that resulted in show stopping dunks. In fact, at times, the game resembled an NBA All Star Game in terms of showmanship.
Young finished with 14 points and six rebounds, while Releford added 13 points and five rebounds, as well as redshirt freshman Ben McLemore, who likely played his last game in Allen Fieldhouse, as he is likely to declare for the NBA draft at season’s end.
Texas Tech (10-18, 3-14) merely played the role of sacrificial lamb, as the Jayhawks had their way, lading by as much as 41. They celebrated in the process, not to show up their opponent, but to honor the four seniors and McLemore, while at the same time acknowledging the fact that the final chapter will determine their place in the illustrious history of basketball at the University of Kansas.
With a win Saturday at Baylor, they will win a mind-blowing ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season championship and for this group, they hope that it’s only the beginning of a journey that could lead them to basketball immortality.
“This is great and they’re going to remember this for the rest of their lives, but you don’t get any hardware for winning tonight,” Self said. “You do for winning Saturday and they know that. We just got to go win and hopefully we’ll react well under pressure because there’ll be a little bit of pressure to go play well, but, that’s good for us going into the postseason.”