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McLemore's record 36 points lead Kansas over WVU

The SportsXchange

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- March has arrived and Kansas happens to be streaking.

The Jayhawks sailed in transition and flew past West Virginia 91-65 at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday to win for the sixth straight time.

"We started to play about as efficient offensively as we have played in a while," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We shared the ball. We had 29 assists and 34 baskets. The big thing was we had one guy off the charts."

That would be Ben McLemore. His 36 points broke the freshman scoring record at Kansas. The 6-foot-5 guard left with 5:21 remaining and the Jayhawks ahead by 24 points after McLemore scored two consecutive buckets.

He broke the KU freshman record of 35 points set precisely 28 years earlier by Danny Manning, on March 2, 1985. Self happened to be in that game too, playing for Oklahoma State.

McLemore was an efficient 12 of 15 from the field, going 5 of 6 from 3-point range. He also was 7 of 9 from the foul line and added seven rebounds. Several of McLemore's buckets came off passes from senior guard Elijah Johnson, who added a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.

"I just want to thank my teammates, especially Elijah, for creating things for me and helping me get my shots," McLemore said. "Elijah is a great player, because he can see when I get on a roll and he wants to keep feeding me."

Johnson was actually coming off a 39-point performance, which led Kansas to an overtime victory at Iowa State. He followed by getting teammates involved and notching his second double-double of the season. The 10 assists tied his career best.

When it was time to tell McLemore of the record, Johnson shared the information when he subbed in for the freshman. The 30-point performance was the third for McLemore, the most for any freshman at Kansas.

"I told Ben when he was walking off the court as I was going in to get him," Johnson said. "I figured I would send him to the bench in better spirits. I honestly think Ben is the person that deserves to break the record out of anybody that I have ever played with. I am happy for him."

The performance by McLemore came after he managed just 28 points in the previous three games, including seven-point totals at Oklahoma State and at Iowa State. He was 9-for-28 during that stretch.

"This was good to see," Self said, "because Ben has labored lately and he's been a different guy for us most nights. Certainly we look forward to hopefully having him aggressive the rest of the way."

Senior center Jeff Withey almost recorded a triple-double, adding 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks as Kansas improved to 25-4 and remained atop the Big 12 at 13-3.

The loss was the fourth straight for West Virginia (13-16, 6-10), which was led by senior forward Dominique Rutledge's 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. Eron Harris scored 11 points but hit just 4 of 17 shots as West Virginia made just 32.8 percent (22 of 67).

"We're not good enough to get down by 10 or 12 or 14 to a team as good as they are and be able to come back," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "We don't have enough offensive firepower to be able to come back. We have to keep the game within reach, and it's hard to do that when we commit unforced errors."

The Mountaineers never challenged after Kansas closed the first half with a 24-9 run. West Virginia went 4 of 21 over the final 10 minutes.

McLemore scored 19 points in the half, going 5 of 7 from the field and 7 of 9 from the foul line.

The Jayhawks buried three 3-pointers -- from Naadir Tharpe, Johnson and McLemore -- over the final 3:35 to push their lead to 45-31 at halftime.

NOTES: Kansas came in leading the nation in 3-point field goal defense (35.5 percent). ... West Virginia became just the sixth team to outrebound Kansas, gaining a 41-36 advantage on the boards. ...The 91 points by the Jayhawks was the highest total surrendered by the Mountaineers this season. ... West Virginia stands 3-5 both in league play, both at home and away. This is its first season in the Big 12. ... Self was presented an honorary ball before the game observing his 500th career win, which he recorded at Iowa State on Feb. 25.
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