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.”