Ben McLemore is already accustomed to being on the finishing end of alley-oop dunks.
He was on the giving end on Saturday.
It happened midway through the second half, when the freshman guard looked toward the rim and then lofted a pass that Kevin Young snared in mid-air. The senior sparkplug for ninth-ranked Kansas proceeded to throw down a dunk over Colorado’s Xavier Johnson that brought another capacity crowd in Allen Fieldhouse to its feet.
In a game full of highlights, that one might have defined the game.
McLemore finished with 24 points, Young added 16 points and eight rebounds, and the Jayhawks rolled to a 90-54 victory over the Buffaloes, sending their former Big 12 foe limping back to the Pac-12.
”He was talking to me – he kept saying, `I’m running and running,”’ McLemore said. ”We got on a break, and I tossed it up to him and he finished it, and the crowd got into it and we kept rolling.”
Elijah Johnson hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, and Travis Releford added 10 points and six assists for the Jayhawks (7-1), who used an 18-3 run fueled by feisty defense to bury the Buffaloes early.
Kansas pushed the advantage to more than 20 by halftime, surpassed the 30-point barrier with 17 minutes left and extended it to 40 with about 8 minutes to go before substituting liberally down the stretch.
”That was an old-fashioned (butt) whipping right there, is what that was,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. ”It’s not like our guys wanted to roll over and die. Kansas just came out and took our heart.”
Josh Scott finished with 19 points to lead the Buffaloes (7-2), who have lost two of three after rattling off six straight wins to start the year. Askia Booker added 15 points, and leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie was held to four points on 1-for-4 shooting. Xavier Johnson missed all four of his field-goal attempts before fouling out.
”It all comes down to defense,” Dinwiddie said. ”It’s not like they were hitting contested 3s, they were dunking on us and absolutely humiliating us. There really is nothing else to say.”
Colorado has lost 19 straight to the Jayhawks, and 46 of 47, dating to the 1991 season. The longtime Big 12 member, which bolted for the Pac-12 last season, still hasn’t won at Allen Fieldhouse since the 1982-83 season, a span of 29 games.
Kansas coach Bill Self is 18-0 against the Buffaloes, and has won 11 straight against the Pac-12.
”That’s the first time we’ve played a game in our building where we didn’t let our opponent get comfortable in the game from the outset,” Self said. ”That’s what we’re supposed to do every game.”
The Jayhawks led 43-22 at halftime after turning Colorado over 12 times and coughing up a possession just twice in the first 20 minutes. The result was a lopsided 22-2 advantage in points-off-turnovers, and a big lead despite missing its final 10 3-point attempts of the half.
McLemore nearly outscored the Buffaloes by himself, pouring in 17 points.
The freshman guard, who sat out last season as a partial NCAA qualifier, did his best work slashing through the lane and getting to the foul line. But he also picked Colorado’s pocket on a couple of occasions, once tipping the ball over a defender’s head and tracking it down for an easy dunk and an 18-3 lead in the opening minutes.
”I give my teammates a lot of credit,” McLemore said. ”We just go out there and have fun.”
The only stretch in which Kansas wasn’t having fun came midway through the first half, when it missed seven straight field goals, and Colorado closed within 29-18. As if on cue, the Jayhawks scored the next nine points to force Boyle – who played for Kansas in the 1980s – to call a frantic timeout.
Dinwiddie, who had scored at least 20 in three straight games, played only 12 minutes in the first half. He picked up two fouls in the first 5 minutes, and at one point went to the locker room favoring his left ankle.
The Jayhawks put the game away with an 11-2 run to start the second half.
The spurt included a nifty feed from Young to Jeff Withey under the basket, and a block by Withey on Colorado’s Andre Roberson that led to a run-out and a dunk by Releford. Young had a hand in several buckets early in the second half, and finished 8 of 9 from the field as the Jayhawks shot 55 percent for the game.
”When you’re playing a team like Kansas in a building like this, your mistakes get magnified,” Boyle said, ”and they just put it to us.”