Second-half improvements on both ends help No. 13 Kansas pull away from UNLV

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During the first half of their game against UNLV, No. 13 Kansas struggled to not just make quality looks but also find them. With the long-armed tandem of Christian Wood and Goodluck Okonoboh serving as formidable roadblocks between the Jayhawks and the basket, Bill Self’s team was outscored in the paint 20-16 and shot just 32.4% from the field.

As a result UNLV was able to take a four-point lead into the half. However the Jayhawks managed to turn things around on both ends of the floor, winning by the final score of 76-61 as a result.

Offensively the Jayhawks did a better job of finding quality looks, scoring 22 points in the paint and shooting 60 percent from the field in the second half. Kansas made five of its eight three-point attempts in the second half, with the majority of those looks coming after the ball went inside by way of either an entry pass or dribble penetration, and they shot 59.1% inside of the arc.

Add in the fact that Kansas was able to limit UNLV to 34.5% shooting and eight points in the paint in the second half, and it came as no surprise that the Jayhawks were able to run away from a young team that ran out of gas down the stretch.

Frank Mason III led the way for the Jayhawks in the second half, accounting for 11 of his game-high 18 points and five of his seven assists. With Kansas’ lack of depth at the position, as Conner Frankamp transferred to Wichita State and Devonte’ Graham is out with a shoulder injury, Mason has to be “the guy” for the Jayhawks at the point and he was a player UNLV focused on slowing down entering Sunday’s game.

To his credit Mason made that task a difficult one for the Runnin’ Rebels, and Kansas as a whole reaped the benefits. Perry Ellis scored ten of his 16 points in the second half, and freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. was a factor not only as a scorer (nine second-half points) but also as a rebounder. Oubre finished the game with 12 points and ten rebounds, and over the last four games he’s averaging 16.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

There’s no doubt that Kansas has talented players, with Cliff Alexander (ten points, five rebounds) also playing well in the second half and Wayne Selden Jr. (16 points) and Jamari Traylor also contributing. The key for Kansas is consistency. Lacking that in the first half against UNLV, the Jayhawks put together longer stretches of good basketball in the final 20 minutes to pull away for their 15th consecutive home win.