Belmont (7-2) at (9) Kansas (7-1)
Saturday, December 15, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Allen Fieldhouse (16,300) -- Lawrence, Kansas. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Belmont 3-0, Kansas 5-0. Away Record: Belmont 3-1, Kansas 0-0. Neutral Record: Belmont 1-1, Kansas 2-1. Conference Record: Belmont 0-0, Kansas 0-0. Series Record: Kansas leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks put a couple of win streaks on the line on Saturday evening in Lawrence, as they welcome the Belmont Bruins to the Allen Fieldhouse for a non-conference affair.
Last year's national runner-up, Kansas has jumped out of the gates with wins in seven of its first eight games. The lone loss came against nationally- ranked Michigan State back on Nov. 13. Since then, KU has won six straight games, including last weekend's 90-54 whipping of a good Colorado team. The victory over the Buffs also extended Kansas' current homecourt winning streak to 26 games, the second-longest in the country (Syracuse - 28).
The Bruins are also off to a fast start, proving to be a tough mid-major program with a 7-2 record thus far. Belmont has won two straight games since a loss to VCU (75-65), topping both Lipscomb (100-66) and most recently, Middle Tennessee (64-49).
Kansas won the only previous meeting with Belmont, posting an 81-51 rout in Lawrence in 2009.
In a battle of experienced rosters, it was Belmont's that proved to be the better in the end, as the Bruins posted a 15-point win over the Blue Raiders on Thursday. Despite scoring a modest 64 points in the game, Belmont shot a strong .500 from the floor overall, as three Bruins notched double figures in the win. Kerron Johnson led the team with 17 points. Ian Clark wasn't far behind with 15 points, while Blake Jenkins finished with 11.
A strong offensive squad, Belmont comes into Lawrence averaging a solid 76.8 ppg and doing so on a healthy .485 shooting bolstered by a .421 mark from behind the arc. The 3-pointer is a strong weapon for the Bruins, who average 9.1 treys per contest. Clark leads the way in that area, shooting a ridiculous .559 from 3-point range (38-of-68), pacing the team with 18.9 ppg. Johnson adds to the team's backcourt potency, netting 14.2 ppg. Trevor Noack and Jenkins round out the top scorers at 10.9 and 10.4 ppg, respectively.
Kansas comes in with a sturdy +17.0 scoring margin, averaging 75.2 ppg while limiting foes to just 58.2. The defensive effort has been stellar, as the Jayhawks average 7.8 steals per game and lead the Big 12 with 9.1 blocks per outing. Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore has made a huge impact, averaging a team-best 16.0 ppg. Senior Jeff Withey has been a monster in the middle, as the 7-footer is averaging 13.8 points on .583 shooting, while pacing the team in rebounding (8.0 rpg) and the nation in blocked shots (5.6 bpg). Travis Releford (12.8 ppg) and Elijah Johnson (10.1 ppg) add to the scoring depth as well.
The Jayhawks made light work of Colorado last time out, shooting .548 from the floor overall, including .600 in the second half to cruise to victory. McLemore led the charge with 24 points, converting 6-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line. Kevin Young had a strong game as well, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. Johnson tacked on 11 points, while Releford chipped in 10 points, while dishing out six assists.
The Bruins' strength is in their backcourt, but Kansas' guard play is stellar as well. Withey will be a handful again in the paint, in what should be another Kansas victory in Lawrence.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 77, Belmont 63
12/15 10:37:58 ET