McLemore keeps Jayhawks soaring

Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images

Ben McLemore has been a huge reason behind Kansas' eight-game win streak.

It’s not even Christmas yet and we already have our fifth top-10 matchup of the season, when No. 9 Kansas travels to Columbus to face seventh-ranked Ohio State on Saturday.

Kansas won both meetings with Ohio State last season, including a 64-62 nailbiter in the Final Four. The Jayhawks own a 7-3 edge in the all-time series, including wins in their past five meetings. Ohio State hasn’t beaten Kansas since 1986.

Kansas vs Ohio State Past 5 Meetings

Kansas has won eight straight since its loss to Michigan State on November 13, including its past four by an average of nearly 25 points per game. A big reason for the recent surge has been the emergence of redshirt freshman Ben McLemore.

He started slowly this season, averaging fewer than 14 points per game in his first six games. He has begun to emerge as the go-to scorer for the Jayhawks over the past few weeks, averaging 19 points per game and shooting 54 percent from the floor in the past four games.

His ability to score within the flow of the offense has been central to his development this season. The guard from St. Louis has really improved his shooting efficiency on plays coming off a screen, an area that he struggled with at the start of the season.

McLemore has made 5-of-10 shots coming off a screen in his past four games, including 4-of-7 3-pointers. In his first six games he connected on just 3-of-16 attempts coming off a screen, and missed all eight of those shots from beyond the arc.

Ben McLemore

Catch-and-Shoot Jumpers This Season

Because of his ability to get open on these screen plays, McLemore has had much more success recently on making jump shots without needing a dribble.

All but two of his 16 catch-and-shoot jumpers have been uncontested in his past four games, and he has hit 11 of those 16 shots.

In his first six games, he was guarded on two-thirds of his catch-and-shoot jumpers and often misfired, making just 7-of-24 attempts.

His best shooting day came against Belmont on December 15, when he made four of his five no-dribble jump shots en route to a 17-point effort. Patience was key against the Bruins, as three of his four catch-and-shoot makes came with less than 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock.

McLemore will face perhaps his stiffest test yet from the Buckeyes' two primary perimeter defenders on Saturday, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. When defending the player coming off a screen, the duo has forced their man to miss 14-of-18 shots without committing a foul this season.

Stat of the game

The Jayhawks have 20 wins against top-10 teams under coach Bill Self since the 2003-04 season. However, just three have come on the road, and only one of those is against a non-conference team: at No. 8 Kentucky on January 9, 2005.