LAWRENCE, Kan. – When Kansas guard Ben McClemore completed an alley-oop dunk to end the first half, the Belmont men’s basketball team left the Allen Fieldhouse court before he could make a subsequent free throw for the Jayhawks after the play.
In a way, the Bruins never returned, getting drubbed by the ninth-ranked Jayhawks 89-60 Saturday night.
Even though Belmont shot 34 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range on the night, the home team’s play was more than enough to keep the Bruins from contending, said coach Rick Byrd. The Jayhawks shot 50.8 percent from the field, led by a 17-point nights from McClemore and Travis Releford.
“Their defense was so good that it affected our shots, our defense was so poor that if affected theirs in the opposite direction,” he said.
Byrd said the game was a disappointing loss for the Bruins, especially after their previous play against major conference teams.
“We feel like our program is at the stage where very often we can give other programs all they want or occasionally sneak a win,” he said. “We want to get to the point where we are winning a few more, but we could just not make this game competitive.”
Kansas opened the game on a 7-0 run coupled with four missed threes from Trevor Noack and J.J. Mann. While the Bruins trailed by double digits early, they clawed back to their deficit to six with baskets from Noack, Mann and Clark.
From there, the Jayhawks took control and never looked back, going on a 21-12 run to end the half with a 44-28 lead. McClemore led the way for the home team with 11 points, while Trevor Noack had seven for the Bruins. Kansas outscored Belmont 20-6 in the paint for the half, while the Bruins were 4-for-17 beyond the arc.
The Jayhawks did not let up in the second half. McClemore started the scoring with a three, and Kansas took a 21-point lead 90 seconds into the half. The Bruins responded with baskets from Noack and Blake Jenkins, but an eventual 12-0 run effectively turned the game from a loss into a blowout. A late-game rally with baskets from Belmont’s second team narrowed the lead to 29.
Kansas coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks’ defense was only supplemented by unusually ineffective long-range shooting by the Bruins.
“They missed shots,” Self said. “We guarded them pretty good, but when you let the second-best three-point shooting team in the country get off 38 threes, chances are they’re going to make 15 of them. They only made eight.”
On the night, Noack led Belmont with 19 points and eight rebounds. The 6-foot-7 forward also took and made the most three-point shots for the team, scoring three of his eight shots despite the Jayhawk defense.
“They were challenging all of our three-point shots, they were challenging everything inside,” Noack said. “It was just a battle and they came out well on top.”
Byrd said the senior has been effective, even if his performances Saturday and throughout the season have been unexpected by people outside the program.
“He’s easily been the most pleasant surprise, and a consistent one, game in and game out,” he said.
The margin of defeat was a just a point shy from the 30-point loss Kansas gave the Bruins in 2009.
Belmont is now 7-3 and returns home to host defending Summit League champion South Dakota State Wednesday night.