It's hard to imagine where Kansas would be without Ben McLemore. Fortunately for the fourth-ranked Jayhawks, they appear to have survived a scare involving the freshman star.
After spraining his ankle earlier this week, McLemore is expected to be close to full strength as visiting Kansas goes for a 15th consecutive victory overall and fourth in a row over Texas on Saturday.
Averaging 16.4 points to rank second in the conference, McLemore has quickly established himself as one of the premier players in the country.
The 6-foot-5 guard scored 17 points Monday before hurting his right ankle late in a 61-44 win over Baylor. McLemore, though, returned to practice Thursday and should be good to go against Texas (8-8, 0-3).
"It's pretty easy to see how good a player he is," Bears 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."
The Jayhawks (15-1, 3-0) have taken six of seven from the Longhorns, and though Texas isn't playing up to par, coach Bill Self isn't taking Saturday's matchup lightly.
"It's not an uncommon scene - good teams and good programs getting off to rough starts - depending on where they are playing," Self said. "But, this is different than most Texas games, I believe, because they are off to a start that isn't indicative of how great their program has been. And they'll get it back, Rick will get it back. But let's just hope that doesn't happen at our expense."
Texas is looking to avoid opening 0-4 in Big 12 play for the first time under coach Rick Barnes. The Longhorns haven't lost their first four league games since 1997-98.
While Texas' first two conference matchups against Baylor and West Virginia went to overtime, it was blown out 82-62 at Iowa State last Saturday.
Sophomores Jonathan Holmes and Julien Lewis scored 15 points apiece and freshman Ioannis Papapetrou chipped in 13. Leading scorer Sheldon McClellan, who has been dealing with right ankle soreness but was medically cleared to play, spent the first 11 minutes on the bench before making a one-minute appearance.
"We've got to get every guy on our team understanding how hard you've got to play consistently every single day," Barnes said when asked why McClellan hardly played. "We're asking guys just to do the fundamental things correctly.
"Where we are, it's obvious it's not working. It's not what we're about."
It's unknown how Barnes plans to use McClellan in this game. The sophomore guard is averaging 14.3 points.
Texas has dropped 13 of 15 against ranked foes, though it beat then-No. 23 North Carolina 85-67 on Dec. 19. The Longhorns, who held the Tar Heels to a season-low 31.3 percent shooting, rank second in the country with a 34.3 opponent field goal percentage - just behind Kansas' mark of 34.2.
"Our field goal percentage defense and Texas' is very comparable ... we're right there, neck and neck," Self said. "(Barnes) always had good defensive teams. ... Statistically, they've always been very good defensively."
In their only true road games this season, the Jayhawks beat then-No. 7 Ohio State 74-66 on Dec. 22 and Texas Tech 60-46 last Saturday.
Then-No. 7 Kansas got all it could handle during its last visit to Texas but held on for a 69-66 win last Jan. 21.
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