Under the Microsope

Ben McLemore has been the talk of Kansas basketball and college hoops nation all season. The Jayhawks' best player since Paul Pierce, McLemore has had a record-setting year and dazzled fans with his three-point bombs and high-flying dunks.

Ben McLemore is KU's leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, the highest scoring average by any Kansas freshman in school history. McLemore's name is also all over the KU freshmen record books in multiple other categories.

Accolades have already come his way for this rising phenom. The 6-5 guard is an All-Big 12 First-Team selection, a USBWA All-America Second-Team honoree, and a Third-Team All-American by the Sporting News.

Heck, McLemore even recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.

But as good as McLemore is, he's struggled during the NCAA Tournament thus far. In KU's two wins over Western Kentucky and North Carolina at Sprint Center in Kansas City, McLemore shot just 2-of-14 from the field, including 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. He also committed six turnovers in those two games and played just six minutes the second half in KU's 70-58 victory over North Carolina on Sunday.

Ask him about sitting on the pine, and the selfless McLemore just smiles and praises the efforts of players like Naadir Tharpe, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young.

"It was great," he said. "I felt like a fan. I was still supporting my teammates even though I wasn't out there. I still have a great attitude. They fought the second half and pulled through and we came out with a win, which was great."

And now McLemore and the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks are headed to the Sweet 16 with a matchup against No. 4 seeded Michigan at 6:37 p.m. (CT) on Friday in Arlington, Texas, at Cowboys Stadium in front of 42,000 fans.

"It's a great feeling," McLemore said. "I don't know how to express it."

While McLemore labored during the opening two games of the tournament, he said he didn't feel much nerves with his first time in the Big Dance. Still, he couldn't find the basket, especially against UNC, when he shot 0-9 from the field, including 0-of-6 from three-point range.

"The last couple of games, I've been loose and I got the feel for it (NCAA Tournament)," McLemore said. "They really haven't been my game. I'm still trying to play my game, I'm still trying to help my teammates out and still bring a lot of energy to the team.

"... It's just a bigger stage for the first time, being a freshman and sitting out last year and just watching, and now to be on the stage, it's just a different feeling. I really haven't changed. I still play my game. I try to stay focused and calm."

McLemore, whose shot has been compared by some experts to one of the best shooters in NBA history in Miami Heat's Ray Allen, isn't too worried that this jumper hasn't found the net quite yet.

He's still going to keep shooting.

"(Just) don't rush things, go out there and give my all like I've always been doing," he said. "I just got to be ready, be back in the gym and shoot and stuff like that."

While KU advanced to the Sweet 16 without much production from McLemore, as the stakes and competition now get bigger on Friday, Kansas dearly needs this super frosh to find his groove.

KU coach Bill Self, for one, believes McLemore will rise to the occasion after seeing limited second-half minutes against the Tar Heels.

"Ben labored this weekend. He's still our leading scorer. We're going to go right back to him," Self said after the North Carolina game.

"There's not going to be a situation with that. ... It wasn't hard not to play him because he's the best teammate on the team. These guys will tell you he's just happy to win. We'll get him right heading into Arlington. I'm talking about getting his confidence back. He had some pretty good looks today, but it wasn't his day.

"... The great thing about Ben, he cares about winning," Self continued. "He put that ahead of everything else. He's happy for these guys. For us to be good, to have a chance to advance, we need all our players playing much closer to their ceiling. I think with Ben, it's just through repetition. He just needs to see the ball go through the hole this week in practice."

If that indeed happens, he could shoot lights out against Michigan.

And McLemore will again be the talk of KU hoops and college basketball nation.

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