With 3:58 left in Kansas’s 61-44 win over Baylor, Ben McLemore nailed a three-pointer to the delight of the home crowd. After a rebound and fast break, Elijah Johnson lobbed the ball up for a McLemore dunk. Less than a minute later, though, a hush fell over the crowd as McLemore fell to the court clutching his ankle.
McLemore limped off the court and coach Bill Self is hopeful he’ll have a quick recovery. Early evaluations suggest that it’s a Grade 1 sprain but he should be fine.
What Kansas wants to focus on after this game is a stifling team defense that held Baylor to a season-low 44 points and 23.2% shooting from the field.
The defense came up with 13 blocked shots, led by Jamari Traylor and Jeff Withey who each had three, while McLemore added two, as did Kevin Young and Perry Ellis. The offense did enough to keep the Bears behind by double figures throughout most of the game, which was fortunate for the Jayhawks, since they didn’t shoot the ball as well as they have in previous games. To their credit, Baylor played solid defense through most of the game when they were in a half court set. Kansas converted a lot of opportunities when they could get out and run, however.
And with an opponent making only 13 of 56 shots (and 14 of 23 from the free throw line) Kansas had plenty of opportunities to run with the ball.
Kansas opened up the game up 22-9 after a 10-0 run from 12:40 to 10:33 after an Ellis drive and layup. But Baylor snuck back in, going on a 9-1 run to answer. Kansas was held scoreless until there were six minutes left in the first half when Withey hit a free throw to make it 23-18. A minute later, Kansas took off on a 8-0 run over the next 2:30 and went to the half up 33-20.
In the second half, Kansas held Pierre Jackson scoreless. Baylor made 13 shots all night, with seven coming in the second half. When someone wasn’t blocking a shot inside, they were at least disrupting attempts.
Even roleplayers were stepping up in the team effort. Ellis played 21 minutes, the most he’s played since his 20 minutes against Chattanooga in mid-November. He was much more active than in the past, driving to the lane, taking shots and coming up with a bit of everything on the scoresheet. He scored six points, but missed a couple of easy ones and added seven rebounds.
McLemore filled up everywhere, leading the team with a relatively quiet 17 points (his first shot of the game didn’t come until more than five minutes into the game. He led the team with eight rebounds, had two assists, two blocks and three steals. Johnson was next in line with 12 points. Now it’s just a matter of waiting on the status of McLemore’s ankle. Naadir Tharpe would step up to take more minutes if McLemore has to miss Saturday’s game against Texas, but Kansas is fairly thin after that. Andrew White has seen action in most games, but he’s never played more than 14 minutes in a game.
As for that Texas game, Kansas travels to Austin for a matchup on CBS. Tipoff is at 1 p.m. CST. Texas has lost four of their last five and has an 8-8 record. Kansas is now 15-1 and ranked fourth in the nation.