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SPOTLIGHT
McLemore leads No. 4 Kansas past Baylor 61-44

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McLemore leads No. 4 Kansas past Baylor 61-44

Published on -1/15/2013, 10:04 AM

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LAWRENCE (AP) -- Ben McLemore had just hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and then rose to the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse to throw down an alley-oop dunk and bring a raucous crowd to its feet.

When he hit the floor moments later, the old barn was filled with deafening silence.

McLemore had poured in 17 points in the fourth-ranked Jayhawks' 61-44 win over Baylor, but he was now clutching his right ankle in pain. The star freshman grimaced as a trainer probed and prodded it, and then he was helped to his feet and straight to the Kansas locker room.

Kansas coach Bill Self said afterward that McLemore had a Grade-1 sprain, "and if we were going to practice tomorrow, I wouldn't let him practice." But Self also was hopeful that McLemore won't miss more than a few days, which means he could be back before Saturday's game at Texas.

McLemore has been a big reason why the Jayhawks (15-1, 3-0 Big 12) have won 14 straight games, matching the fourth-longest winning streak during the Self era.

He leads the team in scoring, hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime in a win against Iowa State, and has become one of the best perimeter defenders in the Big 12.

"It's pretty easy to see how good a player he is," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We knew out of high school he'd be good, but what he's done this early in his career has been impressive."

Johnson finished with 12 points and Travis Releford had 10 for the Jayhawks, whose defense held the Bears (11-5, 3-1) to 23.2 percent shooting and 9 of 42 from inside the 3-point arc.

Freshman center Isaiah Austin had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bears, who still have never won in 10 tries in Lawrence. Pierre Jackson finished with 10 points.

"Our defense definitely carried us, because in stretches we didn't shoot that well," Kansas forward Jeff Withey said. "We just played really good defense and that saved us."

The Jayhawks used a pair of 10-3 runs to seize control in the first half, doing a good job of sharing the ball on offense and clogging up the interior on defense.

Baylor was just 4 of 25 from inside the 3-point arc in the first half -- two of the makes were easy put-backs -- while the Jayhawks managed two blocks each from five different players.

The Bears carried over their offensive struggles from Saturday, when they trudged their way to a 51-40 win over TCU. They committed nine first-half turnovers -- 16 for the game -- against one of the nation's premier defenses, and only had a single assist to show for six made field goals.

"We weren't going strong to the basket, like we should have, like we usually do," said the Bears' A.J. Walton. "You can't knock anything they do. They were just good on defense."

Still, Baylor was within 23-18 on Austin's 3-pointer with 5:26 left before Kansas went on a 10-2 run to finish the half. Five different players scored during the spurt.

The run was nearly derailed when Releford was called for a flagrant offensive foul, much to Self's chagrin. But the Bears' Deuce Bello badly missed two free throws, and Jackson was stuffed on a drive to the basket to leave Kansas ahead 33-20 at the break.

The Jayhawks stretched the lead to 42-23 early in the second half before Baylor trimmed it to 47-34 with 10:32 remaining on a run of free throws by Walton and Gary Franklin.

It was the closest the Bears had been since halftime.

Kansas again stretched the lead on a couple baskets by McLemore sandwiched around an easy inside look from Jeff Withey. And when Austin hit from 15 feet with 6:51 left to trim the deficit to 15, Johnson drove the lane and converted a three-point play as the shot-clock was expiring.

Austin's 3-pointer got Baylor within 56-42 with 4:18 left, but McLemore poured in his own from the top of the key and then threw down his signature dunk in transition.

It would have been the exclamation mark on a blowout win.

Instead, his injury left a sellout crowd inside Allen Fieldhouse quiet as the final seconds ticked off the clock on the Jayhawks' fourth win in their last five games against Baylor.

"My heart dropped, to see something like that. You don't want to see nothing bad happen to him," Johnson said. "I think he moreso panicked than anything. That has a lot to do with it sometimes. I think he'll be all right. Ben will bounce back."

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