NEW ORLEANS — Kansas’ Jeff Withey became the greatest shot blocker in a single NCAA Tournament, and he could care less.
“I don’t care,” Withey said. “It doesn’t matter.”
Withey’s four blocked shots in the Jayhawks’ 67-59 loss to Kentucky in the national championship game on Monday gave him 31 for the NCAA Tournament.
That’s two more than Florida’s Joakim Noah had in the 2006 national championship run.
Withey had two blocks in each half. In the second, he swatted a shot of Anthony Davis, Kentucky’s star who finished with 16 rebounds and six blocks and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Davis finished the tournament with 29 blocks.
One of the title game’s features was the Withey-Davis shot-blocking duel. Withey held his own but knew that Davis, even with six points, was a dominant figure Monday.
“He’s tough,” Withey said. “He’s capable of guarding two players at once, as long as he is.”
Withey was frustrated early. On several possessions Kansas got the ball to him in the block, and Davis and other Kentucky players made it difficult for him to get up shot.
Once, Davis didn’t leave his feet to block a Withey shot.
Withey finished with five points and seven rebounds, below the 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds he brought into the game.
But he also helped frustrate Davis, who is the consensus national player of the year, into a six-point performance and Davis made 1 of 10 shots.
“We were going back and forth,” Withey said.
Said Davis, “I was struggling. So I told our guys I’m going to defend and rebound.”
Withey’s stock as a prospect soared this season, but Coach Bill Self said after the game he expects Withey and junior guard Elijah Johnson to return next season.
Junior Thomas Robinson is widely speculated to enter the NBA Draft. Underclassmen have until April 29 to decide.
“I’ll let him make the call,” Self said.