Ben McLemore led the way with a career high 36 points, while Kansas shot 56.7% as a team in a commanding 91-65 victory over West Virginia on Saturday.
McLemore made 12-of-15 shots (and 5-of-6 from three point range) on his way to a new career high and his third 30 point game of the year. He did so with pull up jumpers, driving dunks, and finishing alley-oops as Kansas did everything they wanted for the final 30 minutes of the game.
Through the first ten minutes, though, West Virginia gave Kansas a game. With 8:30 left in the first half, Eron Harris hit a jumper to put WVU up 22-21. On KU’s following possession, Jeff Withey made a layup. Kansas never trailed again. They took off on a 24-9 run after the Harris jumper to finish out the half up 45-31.
The second half was more of the same, as Kansas was active in passing lanes and deflecting passes, while keeping the pressure on. That allowed them to get out into open space and create baskets in transition. On multiple occasions, they would take advantage by tossing alley-oops on breaks, including an unexpected Jamari Traylor – to – Kevin Young lob and dunk. When that wasn’t happening, they were finding open shooters. As a team, Kansas hit 11-18 three point shots, which is still 6-12 without McLemore’s efforts. As a team, they committed only 11 turnovers and had 29 assists on 34 field goals made. It’s as good the offense has looked for extended periods of time as any other game this season.
Elijah Johnson led the team with ten assists, his second time in double digits this year. He made three out of four of his three point shots and added a dunk on a Naadir Tharpe lob late in the game to get to a double double. He finished with 12 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. For all the anxiety over his performance this season, he’s at the same points per game average as last year (10.2), has more assists per game (4.5 vs. 3.5) and is shooting just a bit better from behind the arc. He’s still committing more turnovers per game and his overall field goal percentage is lower than last year, but he’s trending upwards, and looks more comfortable running the offense. He started heating up late last season as well and was a big part of Kansas’s run to the National Championship game. He may be heating up at the exact right time.
Jeff Withey came a block short of a triple double, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks. He was a menace under the basket all day and a big reason why the Mountaineers shot only 32.8%. Kevin Young added three blocks. Naadir Tharpe had six assists.
Kansas has one more home game, a 6:00 p.m. CST showdown with Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas beat Tech at Lubbock on January 12 60-46. Their last game of the regular season will be at Baylor on March 9.