Playing in front of 19,000 fans in the Value City Arena should have been overwhelming for a freshman, but when you’re probably the best first year college basketball player in the nation, nothing is overwhelming. Ben McLemore continued to impress, leading Kansas to a big win on their first road game of the season.
There’s a lot of stuff I’m curious about Ben. He’s still trying to figure out how to play. You can tell in late-game situations, he’s played less basketball than anybody that’s as old as him and as good as him around. It’s all new to him. When it all comes naturally to him, he’s going to become terrific.
McLemore, despite being the young man in a group of seniors, led Kansas to a big 74-66 win over Ohio State (#7), and despite all the fears that the first boos of the season might get to the young man out of Missouri, Bill Self had nothing to be worried about in hindsight.
This was great. It was my first time playing in an away game. You go up and down the court a little bit, and you get into the game. I kept my intensity, I just played my game.
McLemore finished with 22 points and 6 rebounds, hitting 3-6 from beyond the arc. Like his teammates, he seemed to go into some sort of shock during the first half, when the Buckeyes went on a 14-0 run. Smarter basketball, fantastic one on one defense backed up by center Jeff Withey and Ohio State missing the few open shots that were given to them in the second half completed the comeback and led to the Jayhawks’ biggest win of the season, their third over Ohio State in just over 12 months.
This was McLemore’s third 20+ night of the season, his second in two weeks. He’s now averaging 16.5 points per game and what’s really impressive is his pretty good shot selection, making 48.8% of his field goals and 40.8% from beyond the arc.
Self hardly used anyone from the bench except for Naadir Tharpe, but the rest was up to his five guys to whether the storm and show how athletic, good and disciplined defensively they are. Withey had a big game with 14 points, 10 rebounds and a whole lot of minutes of clogging the lane for Ohio State, who had to settle for bad jump shot after bad jump shot. The Buckeyes finished with a terrible 30.8% from the field and 25.8% from beyond the arc.
Will this combination be enough for another final four, maybe even more, with no clear cut favorite this moment appearing in the race? Self knows it pretty much depends on his Freshman sensation. His team isn’t deep enough to provide a decent enough scoring backup off the bench when McLemore is going to have bad nights. He’ll just have to rely on four guys with tons of experience compared to his biggest star, the excellent one on one defense his team plays for 30-35 minutes a night, and for McLemore to continue to show what a special talent he is.