Kansas celebrated things getting back to normal.
After struggling through their longest losing streak in eight years, a maddening three-game skid, the 14th-ranked Jayhawks returned to the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night and took out all their pent up frustration on in-state rival Kansas State.
McLemore, serenaded by the raucous crowd, scored 30 points. Withey had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to break Greg Ostertag’s school record for career rejections. And the high-flying Jayhawks got back to their winning ways with an 83-62 rout of the 10th-ranked Wildcats, forging a tie with them for first place in the Big 12.
“We just played as a team tonight,” Withey said. “We played Kansas basketball.”
Played it for the first time in a while.
The Jayhawks had lost three straight for the first time since February 2005, a stretch that included a loss to TCU, which still hasn’t defeated anybody else in conference play. Their offense had been abysmal, their defense not much better, and fans were starting to worry.
This one ought to set them at ease.
The Jayhawks used two big runs in the first half to take a 47-29 lead at the break, and then thwarted every rally the veteran Wildcats tried to muster down the stretch.
The result has become predictable: Kansas won for the 11th time in 12 games between the schools, and for the 46th time in their last 49 meetings, prompting the student section to chant “This is our state!” once again in the closing minutes.
“What we were going through is what 99 percent of teams in America go through,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “There’s only 1 percent that doesn’t go through this kind of stretch. And we’re spoiled because it’s been a long time since we went through one of these stretches.”
Rodney McGruder had 20 points and Angel Rodriguez added 17 for the Wildcats. But they never seemed to be in the game, despite riding a four-game winning streak and coming into one of college basketball’s best venues as the higher ranked team for the first time since Feb. 20, 1982.
They were outrebounded 41-23. They watched Kansas outscore them 19-2 on second-chance baskets. They were dominated in the paint, 34-16.
“It’s not always who you’re playing but when you’re playing them,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “They had a very tough week. They probably hung their head for a while. They got their head up. It’s always a good remedy to come home.”