MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Second-ranked Kansas had to show plenty of fight to hold off Kansas State on Saturday.
Perry Ellis has the wounds to prove it.
The Jayhawks’ leading scorer missed a long stretch in the second half with a gouge behind his right ear that required 12 stitches. Then, Ellis got scratched in the eye by teammate Wayne Selden Jr. during a flurry with the game in the balance, sending the senior forward to the bench once again.
Kansas wound up getting just enough from everyone else down the stretch for a 72-63 victory.
“We knew once we lost Perry, we had to come together as a team, do some things differently,” point guard Frank Mason III said, “and the guys off the bench did a good job of coming in and making plays.”
Ellis still managed 14 points, and Mason had 15 as the Jayhawks (23-4, 11-3 Big 12) squandered most of a 17-point second-half lead before holding on for their first win at Kansas State in three years.
Stephen Hurt and Barry Brown scored 13 points apiece for the Wildcats (15-12, 4-10), who got within 65-62 with less than 2 minutes to go. But that’s when Devonte Graham hit his first field goal after five straight misses, and the Jayhawks pulled away from the foul line to secure the victory.
“They’re so unselfish and they play together,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “They have a lot of guys who can make plays, and when you have guys coming off the bench, that makes a big difference.”
After third-ranked Oklahoma beat No. 10 West Virginia earlier in the day, Kansas has a two-game lead over the Sooners, Mountaineers and No. 25 Baylor with four games left in the conference race.
The Jayhawks have won at least a share of 11 consecutive Big 12 championships.
“We’re in decent position,” Mason said, “but we’re not satisfied with the team we are right now.”
The Jayhawks trailed 25-21 before going on a 12-0 run to take control, and Ellis scored at the rim in the closing seconds of the first half to give the defending Big 12 champions a 39-29 lead.
The story of the first half wasn’t the score, though. It was the fouls.
The teams combined for 21 of them, resulting in a disjointed 20 minutes that lacked any sort of rhythm. Kansas State had a trio of players with two fouls apiece, and Austin Budke had three, while the Jayhawks paraded to the foul line 19 times – yep, nearly once per minute.
Weber was probably hoarse by the time he reached the locker room.
The Jayhawks stretched the lead to 52-35 early in the second half, and still led 55-41 when Ellis was banged under the rim and blood began pouring from a cut behind his right ear. The Jayhawks’ leading scorer spent the next 6 minutes getting treatment for it in the locker room.
“The serious deal is Wayne scratched him in the eye,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We’ll go back and have an eye doctor look at it. If it’s a scratch, he’ll be OK, but we just don’t know.”
Kansas State took advantage of Ellis’ absence, pounding the ball to Hurt and D.J. Johnson in the paint. The duo combined to score 16 consecutive points for the Wildcats, and the 6-foot-11 Hurt’s third 3-pointer got Bramlage Coliseum rocking and made it 62-58 with 4 minutes left.
But the Wildcats couldn’t make a stop when they needed it down the stretch.
“It was great to have the crowd behind us,” Hurt said. “I just wish we could have gotten the win.”
Kansas State has lost eight games by 10 points or fewer, including double-overtime defeats against West Virginia and Baylor. “When we spot teams a lot of points, it’s hard to come back,” senior guard Justin Edwards said.
Kansas: Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor fouled out in the final minutes. … Mason reached the 1,000-point mark for his career. … The Jayhawks wound up shooting 30 free throws.
Kansas State: Johnson and Edwards scored 11 points apiece. … Johnson was 9 of 10 from the foul line. … Kansas State has not won three straight over Kansas at home since 1981-83.
Kansas visits No. 25 Baylor on Tuesday night.
Kansas State plays No. 24 Texas on Monday night.