With Ben McLemore having ended a shooting slump in emphatic fashion, Kansas appears fully ready for its final push toward a ninth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
The fourth-ranked Jayhawks will try to move another step closer by beating lowly Texas Tech on Monday night.
McLemore, Kansas’ leader with 16.6 points per game, averaged 9.3 and 32.1 percent shooting in three games before breaking Danny Manning’s one-game freshman scoring record in a 91-65 rout of West Virginia on Saturday. McLemore scored 36 and shot 12 of 15 to help the Jayhawks (25-4, 13-3) remain tied atop the Big 12 with Kansas State while recording a sixth straight win.
“It’s good to see because Ben has labored lately and he’s been a different guy for us most nights,” coach Bill Self said. “Certainly, we look forward to hopefully having an aggressive McLemore the rest of the way.”
Kansas can secure a share of a conference title with a seventh consecutive victory over the Red Raiders (10-17, 3-13), coupled with a Kansas State loss to league-worst TCU on Tuesday.
If that doesn’t happen, the Jayhawks will try to accomplish that feat by winning at Baylor in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
“We know that we have to win the rest of our games in order to win the conference (title) and in order to get into our groove for the tournament,” said center Jeff Withey, who had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks against West Virginia.
Kansas didn’t need too much production from Withey or McLemore to beat Texas Tech on Jan. 12. The Jayhawks limited the Red Raiders to 35.4 percent shooting in a 60-46 road victory.
Kevin Young scored a game-high 14 for Kansas while Withey and Travis Releford had 12 apiece. McLemore had 10 points despite missing five of seven shots.
“The big goal is to take care of business Monday,” Self said. “Our goal is to win out in the conference and get the best seed we can for the NCAA tournament.”
The Red Raiders shot a season-best 62.2 percent to end a nine-game skid Saturday with a 72-63 victory over TCU. Jordan Tolbert made nine of 10 shots to finish with a season-high 22 points, and Dejan Kravic recorded his first career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“I continuously talk to these guys about being like Chinese bamboo, how it stays on the ground for four years and you water it and you don’t see the fruits of your labor. All of a sudden, it grows to 80 feet and it’s an immovable thing,” coach Chris Walker said. “That’s where I told the guys we are right now. We’re still in the water, but we have a stable foundation.”
Texas Tech has lost 28 in a row to Top 25 teams since an overtime win over No. 12 Washington on Dec. 3, 2009, and doesn’t appear ready to end that drought Monday. The Red Raiders have been outscored by an average of 19.5 points in losing their last seven road games, and are 0-12 all-time at Kansas.
The Jayhawks have won the last four meetings in Lawrence by an average of 37.8 points and lead the all-time series 23-4.