Belmont struggles in 89-60 loss to No. 9 Kansas

Belmont marched into Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday night to face
ninth-ranked Kansas as the country’s third-most prolific 3-point
shooting team.

The Bruins made only one of their first eight attempts, and
wound up losing 89-60, shooting a season-low 21.1 percent (8 of 38)
from beyond the arc.

”It was a pretty solid beatdown from beginning to end,” said
coach Rick Byrd, who is in his 27th year at Belmont. ”We just
couldn’t make this game competitive.”

Belmont (6-3) entered the game shooting 42 percent from 3-point
range and making nine 3s a game. Conversely, the Bruins had held
opponents to just 29 percent – but Kansas shot 47.6 percent, paced
by big nights from Ben McLemore, Travis Releford and Andrew White
III.

”Their defense was so much better that it affected our shooting
percentage,” Byrd said. ”Our defense was so poor that it affected
theirs in the other direction.”

Trevor Noack had a career-high 19 points with eight rebounds,
but he was the only Belmont player to break double-figures in
scoring.

Ian Clark, who had been averaging 19.4 points, was held to
1-for-7 shooting from 3-point range and finished with five.

”I think everyone in our locker room is a little embarrassed,”
Byrd said. “We are not embarrassed about the Belmont basketball
program, but about the performance tonight. Kansas had a lot to do
with that.”

McLemore and Releford scored 17 points, White had 15, and Jeff
Withey contributed 14 points and five blocks for the Jayhawks
(8-1), who won their 27th straight at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks labored through much of the first half, unable to
get into the kind of rhythm they used to bury Colorado their last
time out.

They opened a 23-12 lead on a nice feed from Naadir Tharpe to
Withey, but the Bruins – who have lost 16 straight against Top 25
opponents – whittled the lead to single digits.

That’s when McLemore started putting on a show.

After beginning his one-man act with an easy basket, the
freshman raced to the other end of the court and rejected the
Bruins’ Kerron Johnson. Back on offense, McLemore set up White for
a basket that extended the Jayhawks’ lead to 36-23 late in the
half.

”We’re not a selfish team,” Releford said. ”If I have the
ball, I’m penetrating and looking for Ben, or Elijah (Johnson) – it
goes like that throughout the team.”

McLemore’s biggest highlight came as the first half expired.

Johnson had pushed the ball up court, cut to the right of the
lane and dropped off a pass for him running down the left side.
McLemore leaped and dunked over Belmont’s Blake Jenkins, getting
fouled in the process and hanging on the rim an extra second for
emphasis.

While the officials reviewed the play to make sure time was
still on the clock, both teams went to the locker room. That left
McLemore standing awkwardly on the court by himself to take the
free throw – which, of course, he made – for a 44-28 lead at the
break.

”It was kind of weird,” McLemore said. ”I felt like there was
a lot of pressure on me.”

McLemore kicked off the second half with another 3-pointer, and
Kevin Young’s put-back finished off a 12-2 run that allowed the
Jayhawks to start having some fun.

At one point down the stretch, White hit a 3-pointer from the
wing, a turnover by Belmont led to a run-out and another 3-pointer
by White, and yet another turnover led to another fastbreak that
Releford finished with a reverse jam.

”It was a lot of fun. I’d rather watch Ben do a breakaway
dunk,” Releford said with a smile. ”That wasn’t one of my better
dunks. I don’t think I got up as high as I could.”