With Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor no longer around, Kansas entered this season expecting big things from Ben McLemore.
If his latest effort is any indication, the promising freshman may be ready to lead the way.
McLemore and the No. 12 Jayhawks face Washington State in the semifinal round of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Monday night.
After scoring nine points in the opener and 14 during a 67-64 loss to then-No. 21 Michigan State on Tuesday, McLemore scored 25 to lead Kansas (2-1) past Chattanooga 69-55 on Thursday. The Jayhawks trailed by 12 early in the second half before storming back.
"Ben showed a glimpse of his athletic ability tonight," coach Bill Self said. "Defenses are going to be designed to stop Ben, and we don't know how to run offense yet. We're still trying to figure it out, and to me that was pretty impressive."
McLemore, who dislocated his finger twice in the second half, also had eight rebounds and three assists.
"I just wanted to get my teammates involved, too," he said. "I just came in tonight with the mindset of being aggressive, like coach wants me to be every night."
While Kansas was able to pull out the win Thursday, Self sees a lot of room for improvement.
"I thought the first half was the worst we've played, and the second half was the best we've played all year," he said. "One thing that I do know, we're not good enough to play 80 percent or 90 percent. We have to play 100 percent every night. When we do that, we're pretty good."
The Jayhawks will look to raise their game against the Cougars (2-1), who committed a season-high 20 turnovers in a 58-56 overtime loss at Pepperdine on Friday.
Forward Brock Motum, averaging a team-best 17.7 points, had 15 while fellow senior Mike Ladd scored 10 to go along with a career high-tying 13 rebounds.
In addition to trying to contain McLemore, slowing down senior Jeff Withey could prove key for the Cougars. The 7-foot center has recorded a combined 28 points and 22 rebounds in Kansas' wins but had eight and seven in the loss to the Spartans.
The Jayhawks have won 49 of 52 games against unranked non-conference opponents, including the last eight by an average of 18.9 points.
The Cougars fell 89-81 at then-No. 22 Gonzaga last Nov. 14 in their only matchup with a ranked team last season. It was their fourth straight road loss to a Top 25 opponent.
Kansas won the only meeting with Washington State in 1973.
Monday's winner will face Texas A&M or Saint Louis in the championship game Tuesday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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