No. 9 Jayhawks breeze past Belmont, 89-60
Published on -12/16/2012, 6:35 AM
LAWRENCE (AP) — Andrew White III figures he will get some more playing time for No. 9 Kansas if he starts performing to the same level as Ben McLemore and Travis Releford.
He showed on Saturday night that he can hit the outside shot like them.
Now he just needs to throw down some dunks.
The freshman forward came off the bench to score 15 points, McLemore and Releford had 17 each, and the Jayhawks rolled to an 89-60 victory over Belmont, their 27th straight home win.
White had only played a few meaningful minutes this season, instead getting on the court when games were mostly out of reach. But he made a layup early, hit an opener jumper before halftime and wound up making three 3-pointers and going 6 of 8 from the field.
"I've been working in practice every game, working against these two guys," White said, flanked by McLemore and Releford. "Trying to improve the best I can. It's good to have a good scoring game, but there's a lot of room to improve."
There's a thought that should make future opponents cringe.
The Jayhawks (8-1) used suffocating defense, especially on the perimeter, and peerless transition offense early in the second half to put away the Bruins (6-3), a mid-major darling that's been to the NCAA tournament five of the past seven years.
Kansas shot better than 50 percent from the field and was 10 of 21 from the 3-point line.
"I think we're getting better," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who will be without reserve forward Justin Wesley for the next three weeks after he broke a finger in practice.
"I don't think we're terrific by any means," Self said, "but I think we're getting better."
Trevor Noack scored a career-high 19 points for the Bruins, but he couldn't overcome their lousy outside shooting by himself. Belmont was just 8 of 38 from beyond the arc.
"Look, their defense was so much better that it affected our shooting numbers, and ours was so poor it affected theirs in the other direction," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "We were trying to hang in the first half and they kept making shots."
Leading scorer Ian Clark, who had been averaging 19.4 points, was held to five on 2-for-9 shooting. The senior guard was 1 for 7 from the arc, where he had been shooting at a 58.7-percent clip, and committed five of the Bruins' 17 turnovers.
"It was a pretty solid beatdown from beginning to end," Byrd said.
Not entirely: The Jayhawks labored through much of the first half.
They opened a 23-12 lead on a nice feed from Naadir Tharpe to Withey, but the Bruins — who have lost 16 straight against Top 25 opponents — whittled the lead to single digits.
That's when McLemore started putting on a show.
After beginning his one-man act with an easy basket, the freshman raced to the other end of the court and rejected the Bruins' Kerron Johnson. Back on offense, McLemore set up White for a basket that extended the Jayhawks' lead to 36-23 late in the half.
"We're not a selfish team," Releford said. "If I have the ball, I'm penetrating and looking for Ben, or Elijah (Johnson) has the ball — it goes like that throughout the team."
McLemore's biggest highlight came as the first half expired.
Johnson had pushed the ball up court, cut to the right of the lane and dropped off a pass for him running down the left side. McLemore leaped up and dunked over Belmont's Blake Jenkins, getting fouled in the process and hanging on the rim an extra second for emphasis.
While the officials reviewed the play to make sure time was still on the clock, both teams went to the locker room. That left McLemore standing awkwardly on the court by himself to take the free throw — which, of course, he made — for a 44-28 lead at the break.
"It was kind of weird," McLemore said. "I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me."
McLemore kicked off the second half with another 3-pointer, and Kevin Young's put-back finished off a 12-2 run that allowed the Jayhawks to start having some fun.
At one point down the stretch, White hit a 3-pointer from the wing, a turnover by Belmont led to a run-out and another 3-pointer by White, and yet another turnover led to yet another fastbreak that Releford finished with a reverse jam.
"It was a lot of fun. I'd rather watch Ben do a breakaway dunk," Releford said with a smile. "That wasn't one of my better dunks. I don't think I got up as high as I could."