NCAA Tournament

Releford aids victory with offense

Travis Releford entered the national semifinals as a 64.3-percent free-throw shooter for the season.

That number dipped to 63.6 percent in the NCAA Tournament.

That means Releford, a Kans junior who played at Bishop Miege, beat the odds Saturday when he knocked down all four free throws late in the second half and helped the Jayhawks beat Ohio State 64-62.

Releford played a major role in the game with 15 points, his best scoring game since a career-best 28 against Oklahoma on Jan. 7. Releford entered the game averaging 8.5 points.

None of the points were bigger than the two free ones he knocked down with 1:37 remaining and Kansas trailing 59-58.

“I went to the line, relaxed, took a deep breath and did what I have been doing all year,” Releford said.

He took three dribbles before each one and swished them.

“I mean, I felt very confident even before I let the ball go,” Releford said.

The game was an uphill struggle, as most of them have been in the NCAA Tournament. KU fell behind by 13 in the first half, and although the Jayhawks came out of the locker room motivated after trailing by nine, they didn’t take their first lead of the half until Releford’s pair with 2:48 remaining.

The comeback actually started at the end of the first half, and Releford was involved in a key moment there.

The Ohio State lead was 11, and the Buckeyes were looking to take a final shot. Point guard Aaron Craft went to the basket and challenged Jeff Withey. Craft looked for the contact but there was none. Withey blocked it clean to Tyshawn Taylor, who launched a pass to Releford on a fly pattern.

The ball dropped off the glass and into the net as the orange light went off, and Kansas had made it 34-25 at halftime.

“I knew that was big,” Releford said. “After Jeff got the block, I looked up at the shot clock. It was 3 seconds. I saw Ty, and I put my head down and ran as fast I could. I happened to get the shot off.”

Releford, the Jayhawks’ defensive specialist on the wing, has come up huge on that end of the floor throughout Kansas’ run.

But this time it was his scoring — a three-pointer that rolled around the basket in the first half — and his late free throws that made him a welcome scoring source.