By Matt Tait.
After scoring just seven points in an overtime victory at Iowa State last Monday night, many wondered what was wrong with Ben McLemore.
Saturday, during a 91-65 rout over West Virginia, McLemore answered the questions with a resounding answer: nothing.
Not only did the freshman from St. Louis explode offensively, but his 36-point day also set a new Kansas freshman scoring record, breaking the previous mark of 35 points held by Danny Manning.
McLemore was sensational in every aspect of this one, hitting 12 of 15 shots from the floor, five of seven from three-point range and seven of nine from the free throw line. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished four assists.
McLemore was far from the only Jayhawk to play well. Jeff Withey was on triple-double watch for most of the day and finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks. And Elijah Johnson, fresh off his 39-point outing against ISU, scored 12 points and dished 10 assists while hitting three of the four three-point shots he attempted.
The win improved KU to 25-4 overall and 13-3 in Big 12 play. West Virginia fell to 13-16 and 6-10.
KU's win keeps the pressure on Kansas State, which entered the day tied with the Jayhawks atop the Big 12 standings and plays at Baylor at 6 tonight.
Here’s a quick look back at some of Saturday's action:
• The game turned when: Jeff Withey scored back-to-back buckets inside late in the first half to give KU its first leads of the game since 3-2. One came on a nice pass from Kevin Young, the other off a sweet dish from Naadir Tharpe and both buckets sparked a 26-11 run by Kansas to close the first half and send the Jayhawks to the locker room leading 45-31.
• Offensive highlight: There were more than a couple of moments that fired up the home crowd (many of them alley-oops), but few were as pretty as McLemore's cleared-for-takeoff baseline jam that put the Jayhawks up 42-29 with 1:01 to play in the first half. With his outside shot working, McLemore caught the ball in the corner, where Juwan Staten sprinted at him. With a quick side-step McLemore went right by him and when no Mountaineers rotated to help, McLemore cocked it in one hand and soared to the rim for the flush.
• Defensive highlight: With 12:18 to play in the first half and KU trailing 16-9, senior Elijah Johnson made up for a bad turnover by Travis Releford with a big-time block of a lay-up attempt by West Virginia's Jabarie Hinds, who had a clear path to the rim but was caught from behind by Johnson. The block sparked a wild run of end-to-end action that led to KU trimming the Mountaineers' lead to three instead of watching them go up to nine.
• Key stat: Three-point shooting. Both teams made threes during this one — WVU's Terry Henderson hit 6-of-9 from deep — but it was the Jayhawks who were far more efficient from the outside. KU hit 11 of 18 from long range on Saturday, including nine of the first 11 tries. McLemore made five of six, Johnson added three of four and Tharpe chipped in two triples on two attempts, including one near the first-half buzzer
• Up next: The Jayhawks will close out their home schedule Monday, March 5, when they take on Texas Tech at 6 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU improves to 25-4.
Adams makes neither free throw.