McLemore nets career-high 36 points
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)
The Mountaineers held a seven-point lead midway through the first half before No. 6 Kansas found its rhythm and rolled to a 91-65 victory.
''We're not good enough to get down 12 or 14 to a team as good as they are and be able to come back,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. ''We don't have enough offensive firepower.''
On offense, the Mountaineers ran into Jeff Withey, who had 10 rebounds and nine blocks to go with 14 points. On defense, things weren't much better. They strained to contain Ben McLemore, who had a career-high 36 points and broke Danny Manning's Kansas freshman scoring record.
''Other than playing defense and turning the ball over, I don't think there's anything else that can stop a team,'' West Virginia's Eron Harris said.
Kansas shot 56.7 percent from the field and 61.1 percent from beyond the arc, while West Virginia shot just 32.8 percent for the game and had 15 turnovers.
''We knew they were a good team coming in,'' said Dominique Rutledge, who had 17 points for the Mountaineers. ''We have our ways and antics to stop that we just didn't do a good job of doing our job. We are mostly disappointed in ourselves.''
By shattering Manning's freshman record, McLemore did more than propel the Jayhawks in the romp. He also took Bill Self back to his own college days.
The Kansas coach was a senior guard at Oklahoma State when Manning lit up the Cowboys for 35 points on March 2, 1985 in an 88-79 Jayhawks victory, a school record which stood for 28 years to the day.
''I was in that game,'' Self said with a grin. ''I played the back line of a 2-3 zone. I think he got like 20 on me. But not all 35.''
What Manning lacked that day was a teammate like Withey, who fell one block shy of a triple-double as Kansas (25-4, 13-3 Big 12) took a half-game lead over Kansas State in its quest for a ninth straight Big 12 championship. The 13th-ranked Wildcats played later Saturday at Baylor.
''I was one block away (from a triple-double) and I felt pretty good about that,'' said Withey, who pushed his school and conference record to 281 blocks. ''Nine is a lot, and I did a lot of work for that. As long as we get the win, I'm usually happy.''
McLemore, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, went to the bench with a little more than 5 minutes left after hitting 12 of 15 shots from the field, including 5 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He had seven rebounds and four assists.
Elijah Johnson, one game after scoring 39 points at Iowa State, had 12 points and 10 assists for the Jayhawks.
''I just want to thank my teammates, especially Elijah, for creating things for me and helping me get my shots open,'' said McLemore, who got the record with his fifth 3-pointer. ''Elijah is a great player because he can see when I get on a roll and he wants to keep feeding me.''
''Ben was remarkable tonight,'' Self said. ''Elijah was good. Jeff was great. Everybody else was solid. That's about as efficient offensively as we've been all year.''
''(Withey) is the best shot blocker in the country,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
Terry Henderson had 20 points for the Mountaineers (13-16, 6-10), including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
''We have to keep the game within reach, and it's hard to do that when we commit unforced errors,'' Huggins said.
McLemore scored 19 points in a back-and-forth first half which Naadir Tharp brought to an end with a long 3-pointer just seconds ahead of the buzzer for a 45-31 Kansas lead.
''We could have guarded (McLemore) a little better. We didn't guard him very well,'' Huggins said.
The Mountaineers had a hot hand early and led by as many as six points while Kansas was groping to find its shot.
As soon as they located it, the Jayhawks quickly seized control with an 18-5 run, fueled by McLemore's two 3-pointers and three blocks by the 7-foot Withey, who had a 3-inch height advantage over West Virginia's Deniz Kiliçli.
Withey had a triple-double earlier this season against San Jose State with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks.
The Jayhawks host Texas Tech on Monday night, and then finish the regular season at Baylor.
''We know we have to win the rest of our games to win the conference (championship). And in order to get into our groove in the tournament,'' Withey said.