LAWRENCE, Kan.— A sharp-shooting evening from rookies Andrew White III and Ben McLemore led the ninth-ranked Kansas offense past the Belmont Bruins Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse, 89-60.
With the win, Kansas (8-1) head coach Bill Self chalked up his 150th victory in Allen Fieldhouse. In his 10 years in Lawrence, Self has just seven losses in the same span. On Saturday, his Jayhawks met with Belmont (7-3) as the only two schools in NCAA Division I with 12 or more conference wins in 10-straight seasons, but the evening belonged solely to the Jayhawks.
White and McLemore combined for a blistering 80 percent (12-for-15) shooting efficiency that resulted in a career-high 15 points for White. Both also recorded personal-bests from behind the arc as McLemore finished with four threes and White tallied three.
Known for its long-distance accuracy, Belmont came in as one of the top-10 three-point shooting teams in the country, but KU held the Bears to a 1-for-8 start from three-point range and season-low 21 percent mark (8-for-38) on the night, while Kansas shot nearly 50 percent from three point land with a season-high 10 treys.
White and McLemore weren’t the only lethal shooters for the Jayhawks as senior guard Travis Releford went 6-for-9 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from three-point territory to tie McLemore for the team’s lead with 17 points. Senior center Jeff Withey added 14 points and five blocks to give the Big 12’s leading shot-blocker 50 blocks on the season in only nine games. Senior point guard Elijah Johnson ran the offense, dishing out nine assists to one turnover.
Belmont, who enters its first season as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference this season, was led by senior forward Trevor Noack’s 19 points. He was the only Bruin in double-figures on Saturday.
For the fourth time in his debut season, it was McLemore who tallied KU’s first points, this time dropping a three-pointer from the corner just five seconds in. Johnson followed suit, drilling five-straight points to shoot out to an early 10-2 lead.
Withey added to it with back-to-back buckets, highlighted by a crowd-pleasing alley oop dunk fed by sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe. The dunk again pushed Kansas to a double-digit lead, 23-12, with nine minutes remaining. Belmont responded throughout the half, knocking down consecutive jumpers to shrink the Kansas lead, 23-16. Four-straight points from freshman forward Perry Ellis were answered by a 5-0 run by the Bears to force a Kansas timeout as the five-minute mark neared in the opening half.
The timeout paid off as Withey and senior forward Kevin Young put together their own 5-0 scoring rally heading into the last media timeout. McLemore handled a tipped steal from Johnson for a dunk that stretched KU’s run out to 7-0 before a pair of free throws from Belmont’s Kerron Johnson broke up the scoring drought. A three-pointer from White, a late jumper from Johnson and McLemore’s three-point play dunk at the buzzer ignited an already firery crowd and sent Kansas to the break with a sizable, 44-28 lead.
After scoring the last three points of the first half, McLemore drilled the first three of the second to get Kansas out to a quick 7-2 run and prompt a timeout from the Belmont bench within the first 90 seconds.
Young reached for the layup that pushed KU’s lead to 25 for the first time on the evening. Although Belmont quickly retaliated with five-straight points, KU kept pushing. McLemore drained his career-high fourth three amidst an 11-2 Jayhawk run that put the game out of reach with more than 10 minutes to play.
Tharpe’s only bucket of the game propelled KU past to a 30-point lead, but White stole the show. In consecutive possessions, the freshman guard knocked down a three from each corner. Releford chipped in a pair of free throws before White came through with another basket as Kansas sailed in front by 40 points, 87-46.
Self used the large lead and remaining time to work much of his bench into the game as KU sealed the win, 89-60.
No. 9/9 Kansas will host the Richmond Spiders on Tuesday, Dec. 18. Tip from Allen Fieldhouse is set for 6 p.m. will be televised on ESPN2.