LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — By shattering Danny Manning’s Kansas freshman record with 36 points on Saturday, Ben McLemore did more than propel the sixth-ranked Jayhawks to a 91-65 romp over West Virginia.
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 exactly 28 years.
Article continues below ...
“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 Jeff Withey, who complemented McLemore with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks, falling 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.”
The Jayhawks shot 57 percent for the game.
While being so active on both ends of the court, Withey did not pick up his first foul until a little more than 5 minutes remained in the game.
“He 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. Dominique Rutledge had 14 of his 17 points in the second half in West Virginia’s first visit to venerable Allen Field House, where Self now stands 162-8 with one home to go in his 10th season as Kansas head coach.
“We’re not good enough to get down 10 or 12 or 14 to a team as good as they are and be able to come back,” Huggins said. “We have to keep the game within reach and it’s hard to do that when we commit unforced errors.”
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 him 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 Kilicli.
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 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.