Kansas head coach Bill Self instructs his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Louis, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Jeff Withey matched a career high with 25 points, Travis Releford added 23 and No. 12 Kansas held off Saint Louis 73-59 on Tuesday night to win the CBE Classic.
Releford had 21 points in the first half, and Withey had 15 in the second, the inside-outside duo carrying the Jayhawks (4-1) despite every effort by the Billikens (2-2) and senior forward Cody Ellis to get back into the game in the waning minutes of the second half.
The Jayhawks improved to 16-4 all-time at the Sprint Center, the site of this season's Big 12 tournament, and where they'll play Oregon State in a nonconference game next week.
Ellis finished with 19 points for the Billikens. Mike McCall Jr. added 13 points, Cory Remekun had 10 points and Dwayne Evans pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Jayhawks got off to the same kind of start they had the previous night, when they buried Washington State under a 21-5 onslaught. Releford keyed it with back-to-back 3-pointers, and Elijah Johnson's only basket of the first half finished off an opening 14-4 run.
After the Billikens clawed back within four, Releford and Withey combined to score 14 straight points as Kansas established a 28-10 edge and threatened to put the game away.
Saint Louis never wavered, even after Jordair Jett limped to the locker room late in the half.
McCall hit a long 3-pointer late in the half, and another triple by Jake Barnett - one of three he had on the night - helped get the Billikens within 39-25 at the break.
Releford was 6 of 11 from the field in the first half; Saint Louis was 6 of 23.
The Billikens also committed 10 turnovers, but despite their sloppiness on offense and their inability to slow down the Jayhawks on defense, they still were within striking distance.
McCall's 3-pointer out of halftime closed the gap to 11, but Withey converted a three-point play off a nifty feed from Kevin Young, and McLemore followed up a 3-pointer with a scooping layup, allowing the Jayhawks to restore a 47-30 cushion with about 17 minutes left in the game.
That's just about when Ellis started to heat up.
His basket with 14:25 left got the Billikens within 50-36, and he converted a three-point play with under 10 to go that made it 57-45. The senior forward from Perth, Australia, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers a couple minutes later to trim the deficit to 10 points.
Kansas kept trying to deliver the knockout blow, and the Billikens kept dodging it.
McCall answered a basket by Releford that threatened to raise the roof at the Sprint Center, which was filled with a pro-Kansas crowd, and then Ellis knocked down another off-balance 3-pointer from the wing to get Saint Louis within 65-56 with just under 4 minutes left in the game.
Withey converted a three-point play, though, and after Ellis misfired from long range, the Jayhawks' 7-footer dunked at the other end to make it 70-56 and effectively put the game away.