LAWRENCE, Kan. — Dunking, driving and raining jumpers, Ben McLemore poured in a Kansas freshman-record 36 points, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range, to fuel the No. 6 Jayhawks in a 91-65 runaway over West Virginia.
Kansas, which blew open the game with a 16-2 second-half run, made seven consecutive 3-pointers at one stretch and finished 11-of-17 from long range overall. McLemore was the catalyst, making 12-of-15 shots from the floor and eclipsing the 35 points Danny Manning scored as a rookie against Oklahoma State precisely 28 years ago.
“(McLemore) was remarkable tonight,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who, coincidentally, played for Oklahoma State on March 2, 1985, the day of Manning’s big performance. “We ran some things today to make sure Ben was the first option, and maybe we need to do more of that.”
“(McLemore) is a great player, and one player’s not going to be able to guard him. You’ve got to have help defense and everybody’s got to be talking on the floor. We did not do that today.” — WVU’s Eron Harris
The Jayhawks (25-4, 13-3), who won their sixth straight and completed a sweep of the season series, nearly enjoyed another history-making triple-double from Jeff Withey. The senior center finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks before exiting with around three minutes left in the game.
Terry Henderson scored 20 points, on 6-of-9 3-pointers, and Dominique Rutlledge added a career-high 17 points off the bench for West Virginia (13-16, 6-10), which dropped its fourth consecutive. Eron Harris had 11 points for the Mountaineers, albeit on 4-of-17 shooting.
McLemore scored 19 points in 17 first-half minutes after scoring only 13 the first time these teams met in Morgantown.
“We’ve got to play better team defense (against McLemore),” Harris said. “He’s a great player, and one player’s not going to be able to guard him. You’ve got to have help defense and everybody’s got to be talking on the floor. We did not do that today.”
Kansas, which recorded 27 assists on 32 baskets, shot 55 percent to West Virginia’s 31 percent.
WVU remained stuck in seventh place in the Big 12, while Kansas remained tied atop the league with Kansas State, a 64-61 winner at Baylor later Saturday.
A WITHEY RECOUNT?
Self did some postgame politicking for statisticians to take another look at Withey’s block total, which fell one shy of a triple-double.
“Our stat crew does a great job, but I think that one’s worth revisiting,” Self said. “Jeff was terrific. It sure seemed like he had more than nine (blocks) today. And of course he had the one at the end where a foul was called and it looked like it might have been clean.”
Withey, who produced a 16-point, 12-rebound, 12-block triple-double earlier this season against San Jose State, didn’t sound too disappointed.
“I was one away from 10 and I felt pretty good about that,” Withey said. “Nine (blocks) is a lot and I did a lot of work for that. As long as we get the win, I’m usually happy.”
Aaric Murray checked in and promptly blocked two shots but also picked up three first-half fouls in three minutes. He played three minutes in the second half before fouling out with two points.
Matt Humphrey made his second consecutive start and hit a quick 3 -pointer but picked up his second foul only 3:07 into the game. Upon returning, Humphrey was whistled trying to stop McLemore on a fast break, giving him three fouls in five minutes.
Humphrey picked up foul No. 4 only 17 seconds into the second half, whacking Withey after the Kansas center blocked his shot.
KEEPING UP WITH JOHNSON
Elijah Johnson, coming off a 39-point output at Iowa State on Monday night, scored only 12 against WVU. But Self thought his point guard was crucial to KU’s offensive explosion.
“The guy gets 39 one night and the next game he gets 10 assists,” Self said. “Elijah is playing so much better. When he’s locked in and being aggressive, as opposed to thinking about too much and reacting slow, he’s great.”
McLemore certainly noticed Johnson’s passes, which led to 16 of the freshman’s points.
“I just want to thank my teammates, especially Elijah, for creating things for me ad helping me get my shots open,” McLemore said. “Elijah’s a great player because he sees when I get on a roll and he keeps feeding me.”
LOST IN THE PHOG
Kansas sold out all 16,300 seats at Allen Fieldhouse for the 196th consecutive game, dating back to the 2001-02 season. But Harris said the raucous atmosphere was no excuse for WVU being blown out.
“The atmosphere should not affect you at all, because there’s only 10 players on the floor,” he said. “It’s all about execution and not about the crowd at all.”