LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jeff Withey made life miserable for Oklahoma in just about every way possible.
Blocked shots? The Jayhawks’ 7-footer had four of them.
Steals? Three of those, too.
He also had 13 points and nine rebounds to polish off his afternoon, helping the third-ranked Jayhawks to a 67-54 victory on Saturday, their nation-leading 17th in a row.
Withey even had an assist when he fed Travis Releford in transition for an easy basket.
“He was terrific. Jeff played great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “The mistakes we made in the first half, he erased a lot of them, which led to points. We didn’t do much offensively at all, but we got easy baskets off his defense when we got out and ran.”
Withey got out and ran, too.
Late in the game, Releford returned the favor by coming up with a steal and pushing the ball to Naadir Tharpe, who hit the 7-footer on the fast break for a dunk that helped to seal the game.
“I can think of better options than him leading the break,” Self said with a smile, “but the way we played today, he may have been as good as our guards.”
Ben McLemore added 18 points and Releford finished with 10 for Kansas (18-1, 6-0 Big 12), which struggled much of the way offensively but still won their 33rd straight at Allen Fieldhouse to match the fourth-longest home winning streak in school history.
“We just couldn’t get to a point where we could threaten them down the stretch,” said Sooners coach Lon Kruger, whose team trailed 29-21 at the break and never could trim the lead.
Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye scored 12 points each, and Steven Pledger added 10, as the Sooners (13-5, 4-2) lost their 10th straight to the Jayhawks dating to 2006.
They haven’t won at the Phog since beating then-No. 6 Kansas during the 1993 season.
“They’ve got terrific athletes on the perimeter, a big shot-blocker inside, guys who are very unselfish,” Kruger said. “They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
It was the 14th time in 19 games that Kansas held an opponent to 60 points or less, including the past five Big 12 foes. The Sooners had been averaging close to 72 points in league play, but couldn’t manage it by shooting just 35 percent from the field.
“Kansas is very, very good,” Kruger said matter-of-factly, “and we have to play much better than we did today to compete with them.”
It was the 800th game played at Allen Fieldhouse, just down the Interstate 70 from Kemper Arena in Kansas City, where 25 years ago the Jayhawks beat the Sooners for the national title.
Neither team looked Final Four-worthy in the first half, though.
The Jayhawks were 1 of 6 from beyond the arc and committed eight turnovers, three by Releford. So even when Kansas managed to build a lead, going up 24-14 on McLemore’s putback with 5:30 left in the first half, the Jayhawks couldn’t establish too much separation.
Oklahoma didn’t do a whole lot to help itself, either.
The Sooners got within 29-21 at halftime on a 3-pointer by Pledger, but they still shot just 28 percent from the field. Their 21 points were a season low for any half.
“We did some good things defensively in the first half,” Self said.
Things didn’t change much for Oklahoma after the break. Osby missed the Sooners’ first five shots, and their first field goal didn’t come until M’Baye’s jumper at the 16:14 mark.
Osby admitted he was shaken by Withey, who kept hounding him everywhere on the floor.
“He does that with everybody. He makes it really tough, especially going to the basket,” Osby said. “You try to get him off the floor with pump fakes and he just stays down, stays down. … He always bothers people, but I think I kind of let it get in my head a little bit.”
Kansas kept its lead hovering around 10 points for much of the second half. Elijah Johnson’s driving layup for his first basket made it 37-27, and his 3-pointer with 11:35 remaining gave the Jayhawks a 42-31 lead, matching their biggest of the game.
The Jayhawks had pushed it to 45-39 on McLemore’s 3-pointer with 4:10 left when the Sooners went on their last run. Consecutive baskets by Buddy Hield and M’Baye trimmed the lead to 10, but Johnson’s 3-pointer and another by McLemore put the game away.
“The first half was pretty sloppy as a whole. The second half we got it going, we started rebounding better,” Withey said. “We got a couple steals and that led to easy baskets.”