Kansas senior makes history as Jayhawks win

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Kansas senior makes history as Jayhawks win

From Comcast SportsNetLAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Nobody else was doing much scoring for No. 10 Kansas on Monday night. Nobody else was rebounding or playing much defense, either.Jeff Withey stepped up and did all three.And etched his name in the school's record books, too.The senior center had 16 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record 12 blocks for only the second official triple-double in Kansas history, and the Jayhawks held off a furious comeback by San Jose State for a 70-57 victory."He was the only guy who played worth a flip," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He did a good job covering up for a lot of mistakes, because we made a ton of them tonight."Withey scored 10 points during a 20-2 run early in the second half, and achieved the Jayhawks' first triple-double since Cole Aldrich in an NCAA tournament game against Dayton in 2010 when the 7-footer blocked Xavier Jones' shot with 7:43 left in the game."I've been wanting that for a while now, and it's only me and Cole that have it, so it's pretty special to me," Withey said. "They kept on driving in and, you know, I just kept on blocking it. It's what I do."Kansas (5-1) certainly needed every last one of them after taking a 60-36 lead with just over 11 minutes left, and then watching the Spartans (2-3) go on an 18-2 run of their own.The Jayhawks finally put it away when Elijah Johnson hit a floater with just over a minute left for a 66-57 lead, and when Withey's rejection of J.D. Brown turned into a run-out that Ben McLemore finished off with a windmill dunk with about 30 seconds remaining."We didn't back down," San Jose State coach George Nessman said. "We kept bucking up and sticking our chest out there, and that was important for us."James Kinney stuck his chest out the farthest, scoring 19 of his 30 points in the second half for the Spartans. At one point, the senior guard scored nine in a span of about 90 seconds as San Jose State was mounting its big second-half charge."I wasn't going to give up. I'm not going to get embarrassed out here," Kinney said. "Once everyone saw I was going to keep fighting, they just tagged along."McLemore finished with 13 points despite missing all seven of his 3-point tries, and Travis Releford also had 13 points for the Jayhawks. Kevin Young added eight rebounds.Playing its first game since romping to victory in the CBE Classic last week, the Jayhawks looked fresh and smooth in building a double-digit lead late in the first half.San Jose State answered with nine straight points spanning halftime to get back into it.That's when Kansas went on its big run.It began with a 3-pointer by Johnson, and the momentum really started to build when Young followed up Withey's miss with an easy basket down low.Withey scored six of the Jayhawks' next eight points as the lead slowly grew, and the crowd at Allen Fieldhouse began to realize that he was making history. He surpassed the 10-rebound mark midway through the second half before getting his 10th block to mark the triple-double."Most of the time -- I'm guilty of it, too -- we get caught standing around watching Jeff, like a fan or something, and that's when we need to snap back to it," Johnson said. "Jeff saved us a lot of times. There were times I caught myself looking instead of playing."Unofficially, it was Withey's second time reaching the milestone.The senior had 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks against Pittsburg State in an exhibition game last season, when All-America forward Thomas Robinson missed the game due to injury.It also comes with an asterisk in the Kansas record books.The school didn't keep records for blocked shots during the 1950s, when Wilt Chamberlain was plying his trade on the hardwood. He undoubtedly had his share of triple-doubles while playing for the Jayhawks -- but officially, only Aldrich and Withey have done it."On the sideline, I kept thinking some of the shots were going in, and then bang, they were going the other way," Nessman said. "We try to tell our guys to jump into shot-blockers, but he's so good at staying down, it's hard to get him off his feet."Kinney did the best job of getting shots up, over and around him.In doing so, he nearly stole Withey's thunder.The spunky guard hit consecutive jumpers to end the Jayhawks' big second-half run, and then added a fall-away 3-pointer with just over 10 minutes remaining to close the gap.He added another 3-pointer with 6:44 left to trim the Spartans' deficit to 60-51, and then hit his fourth 3 as the shot clock was winding down to make it 64-57 with 2:39 to go.That's when Kansas finally put the game away."I just don't think we have any fold in us. That's not who we are. We have a great group of kids," Nessman said. "We came here to play for a full 40 minutes."

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

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Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test. 
 

Report: Bennett playing with cracked bone, bone chips in ankle

Report: Bennett playing with cracked bone, bone chips in ankle

FOXBORO -- Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett admitted last week that he has been dealing with a variety of physical ailments throughout the course of his first season with the Patriots. "I've been fighting through [expletive] the whole year," he said, "and I'm not gonna stop now."

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

Bennett suffered a knee injury against the Texans last week that limited him in practices leading up to the AFC title game, but he's also had to cope with ankle and shoulder issues for much of the season.

On Sunday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport tweeted: "Patriots love Martellus Bennett's toughness. Example: He plays with a cracked bone [and] bone chips in his ankle. Surgery likely this spring."

Bennett initially showed up on the Patriots injury report with an ankle issue after having his leg twisted awkwardly during a win over the Browns in Week 5. It hampered him for much of the regular season, and he seemed to aggravate it further while being tackled during a Week 12 victory at Met Life Stadium over the Jets. The following week, a win against the Rams, Bennett admitted he had what was probably his worst game of the season.

Bennett has continually played as the top tight end on the Patriots roster since Rob Gronkowski landed on injured reserve. He played in 64 of a possible 69 offensive snaps against the Texans in the Divisional Round, and he has played at least 43 snaps each week since the Patriots' bye in Week 9. For the season, he has played in 78 percent of New England's offensive snaps.

Bennett is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He'll turn 30 years old in March.