PErry Ellis

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No. 1 Kansas advances to Sweet 16 for first time in three years

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Since losing to Kentucky in the 2012 national title game, South No. 1 Kansas has gone no further than the Sweet 16 in any of the three NCAA tournaments that followed. But this year’s edition of the Jayhawks are a more complete team than any of those three squads, and entering this tournament Bill Self’s team was seen by many as the favorites to cut down the nets.

Saturday night Kansas moved one step closer to its first national title in eight years with a 73-61 win over No. 9 UConn in Des Moines.

After going on a 13-0 run early in the first half Kansas ripped off a 19-0 that essentially removed any doubt regarding the outcome, as their play on both ends of the floor proved to be too much for the Huskies. Kevin Ollie’s team trimmed the deficit to nine in the second half, but at that point Kansas re-applied itself defensively to take control of the game for good.

UConn didn’t have an answer for Kansas’ offense for most of the game, with Perry Ellis scoring 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting while also grabbing eight boards and Wayne Selden Jr. added 22 on 8-for-15 from the field. Kansas shot 56 percent in the first half, and if not for a sluggish start to the second half their percentage for the game would have been higher than the 49 percent they finished with.

Defensively the Jayhawks kept the Huskies out of the paint, forcing UConn to settle for challenged two-point shots and drives to the basket that resulted in Jamari Traylor blocks in a couple instances. And as the stops added up so did the margin, with Kansas controlling the boards on both ends of the floor as well.

Next up for Kansas is either No. 5 Maryland or No. 13 Hawai’i, and if they play anywhere near the level they played at for most of their two games in Des Moines the Big 12 champs are going to be an incredibly tough out.

There may not be a “star” with the hype of an Andrew Wiggins (2014) on this roster, but Kansas has the depth and talent needed to find an answer for whatever the opposition offers up. And given the topsy-turvy nature of both this season and this tournament, that may be enough to win the national title.

Ellis leads No. 1 Kansas to 85-63 rout of K-State in Big 12s

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Perry Ellis scored 21 points, Frank Mason III added 16 and top-ranked Kansas ran roughshod over weary Kansas State, 85-63, on Thursday in the quarterfinals in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Jayhawks (28-4), who won their 12th consecutive regular-season crown, led 45-30 at halftime before pushing their advantage past 20 for much of the second half. They coasted the rest of their way to a semifinal matchup Friday night with No. 22 Baylor, which handled No. 23 Texas earlier in the day.

Carlton Bragg added a career-high 12 points for Kansas. Devonte Graham finished with 11.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats (17-16) were led by Justin Edwards, who hit five 3s and had 23 points. But the senior guard didn’t get nearly as much help as he had in a first-round victory over Oklahoma State.

Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson scored 10 apiece, but freshman forward Dean Wade – who had a career-high 20 against the Cowboys – was held to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. Fellow freshman Barry Brown was 1 of 8 from the field and managed only three points in 26 minutes.

Kansas State has never beaten Kansas in nine tries in the Big 12 tournament.

The Jayhawks, potentially playing for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, certainly looked the part before a heavily pro-Kansas crowd. They shot 57 percent from the field, had the edge in rebounding, assists and steals, and protected the ball so well Kansas State never made much of a run.

The few times the Wildcats mounted a charge, Ellis or Mason was there to answer it.

The biggest highlight may have come when Ellis soared for an alley-oop pass and slammed it down midway through the second half, sending the crowd in Sprint Center buzzing and giving Kansas a 55-37 lead.

Edwards kept trying to shoot Kansas State back in the game, but the rest of the Wildcats looked spent from their game against the Cowboys down the stretch. Kansas merely had to protect the basketball in the final minutes to wrap up its 12th consecutive victory.

CHEICK CHECK

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo did not play after needing five stitches in his mouth following an incident in practice Wednesday. Diallo, a five-star recruit, has struggled to earn minutes behind the Jayhawks’ bevy of veteran forwards. He hasn’t scored more than two points in a game since January.

TIP-INS

Kansas State: Edwards also had 10 rebounds. … The Wildcats shot 38 percent, including 6 of 18 from beyond the arc. … The last time the teams met in the Big 12 Tournament was the 2013 finals.

Kansas: Wayne Selden Jr. was held to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. … The Jayhawks improved to 19-1 in their opening game of the conference tournament. … Kansas swept the season series from Kansas State.

UP NEXT

Kansas State waits to hear if it is playing in the NIT.

Kansas plays the No. 22 Bears in Friday night’s semifinals.

No. 1 Kansas beats No. 21 Iowa State for 11th straight win

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Having already wrapped up the Big 12 regular season title, the program’s 12th consecutive, No. 1 Kansas entered Saturday’s game against No. 21 Iowa State looking to complete an undefeated run through the home portion of their schedule. The Cyclones were competitive throughout, but in the end the Jayhawks simply had too many options as they won 85-78 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas outscored Iowa State 17-7 over the final 5:09, limiting the Cyclones to just one made field goal during that stretch. On Senior Day it was senior forward Perry Ellis who led the way offensively, scoring his team-best 22 points on shots from both inside and out while also grabbing seven rebounds. Bill Self’s team doesn’t lack for depth or talent, and both attributes were on display during the game’s decisive run.

Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonté Graham added 16 points apiece, and five different Jayhawks scored during the run that decided the outcome. While there can be a tendency to look for a headliner capable of taking over a game this time of year, there’s also great value in having multiple players capable of stepping forward on any given night. That’s a luxury Kansas has, and it’s one reason why they’re seen as a favorite to cut down the nets in Houston.

Kansas found quality looks offensively and took care of the basketball in the second half, shooting better than 58 percent from the field in the game’s final 20 minutes. That can wear an opponent down, especially one that lacks depth like Iowa State.

The Cyclones received good minutes from their front court, most notably Georges Niang and Jameel McKay as they combined to score 41 points. But point guard Monté Morris shot just 3-for-10 from the field in scoring his 13 points, and Abdel Nader was relatively quiet as well. Given how Kansas executes offensively, everyone has to be clicking on all cylinders if you’re going to leave Allen Fieldhouse with a win. But there are positives to be taken from this defeat if you’re Iowa State, most notably the play of McKay.

The senior forward, who’s an incredibly important figure for Iowa State as they look to make a run in the NCAA tournament, has been a bit of an enigma at times this season. There was the two-game suspension served last month, and there have been times on the floor where he wasn’t providing the energy Iowa State needs from the pivot to make up for their lack of interior depth.

If McKay plays as he can consistently, Iowa State has the tools needed to make some noise. They can win games with McKay being a minor (or non-existent) cog in the attack, but the task becomes a lot more difficult for Iowa State when that’s the case.

Kansas has no such question marks at this time, as they’re playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. Winners of 11 straight, the Jayhawks are fully capable of extending that streak into early April.

Ellis, Lucas lead No. 6 Kansas past No. 10 West Virginia

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In the first meeting between No. 10 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas, the Mountaineers dominated in their 74-63 win in Morgantown. Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” attack forced 22 Kansas turnovers, with the Jayhawks playing far too fast and loose with the basketball while also getting out-toughed by the Mountaineers. In the rematch Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) looked far better equipped to deal with West Virginia in both of those areas, winning by the final score of 75-65.

Kansas committed 15 turnovers, with Devonte’ Graham responsible for five of them, but they did not allow West Virginia (19-4, 8-3) to use those chances to kickstart their offense. The Mountaineers scored 13 points (one fewer than Kansas, which took advantage of ten WVU miscues) off of those turnovers and did not register a single fast break points. Having to play in the half-court more than they would have liked, West Virginia could not execute at the level they did in beating Baylor Saturday.

As a result Bob Huggins’ team shot 37.3 percent from the field and 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers have shown signs of being able to win games in which they don’t force a high turnover count, but that wasn’t the case at Allen Fieldhouse.

If not for West Virginia grabbing better than 34 percent of their misses and scoring 14 second-chance points, the margin is likely even greater than the ten-point outcome due to the contract in offensive execution. Kansas pushed the ball early, getting out to an 8-0 lead, and as the game wore on the Jayhawks were much better in finding quality shot opportunities. Bill Self’s team shot 56.1 percent from the field with Perry Ellis scoring 21 points to lead five Jayhawks in double figures.

The tandem of Ellis and Landen Lucas, who grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and blocked four shots to go along with his nine points, won the battle against a WVU front court missing the suspended Jonathan Holton. Devin Williams, who went for 17 and 12 in the first meeting, finished the rematch with a respectable 14-point, nine-rebound effort but he didn’t get much help in the post from the likes of Elijah Macon and Nathan Adrian.

After having Self question their toughness in a home win over Kansas State six days ago, the Jayhawks have responded with wins over TCU and West Virginia. Obviously it’s tough to read too much into beating the Horned Frogs, because even with that game being in Fort Worth it’s one Kansas was expected to handle with ease. The Mountaineers posed a different, and far more rigorous test, and Kansas got the job done.

As a result the Jayhawks have brought West Virginia back to the pack in the Big 12 title race, making Saturday’s game at No. 3 Oklahoma even bigger than it already was.

Ellis double-double for No. 7 Kansas in 75-56 win at TCU

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Perry Ellis had 23 points and 10 rebounds as No. 7 Kansas started the second half of the Big 12 Conference schedule with a 75-56 victory at TCU on Saturday.

Kansas (19-4, 7-3 Big 12), which had lost its previous three conference road games, never trailed after scoring the game’s first seven points.

With the quick start and in a road arena about half-filled with their own fans, the Jayhawks rebounded from an underwhelming victory three days earlier against Kansas State. They also won for the 12th time in 13 games against TCU, which exactly three years earlier got its only win in the series.

Devonte Graham added 15 points and Frank Mason III 12 for the Jayhawks, who shot 50 percent from the field (29 of 58) and had a 46-25 rebounding advantage. Ellis was 11-of-14 shooting.

Brandon Parrish and JD Miller had 13 points each for TCU (10-13, 1-9), whose only win in its last eight games was last weekend at home when overcoming a 14-point halftime lead for a 75-63 victory over Tennessee in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Chauncey Collins had 10 points.

The Frogs shot 29 percent (14 of 49).

Ellis had a three-point play after a wild scramble to get the ball to put the Jayhawks up 34-14, giving them a 20-point lead for the first time. His tip-in with 2:31 left made it 38-14 before TCU scored the last six points of the first half.

Kansas also had its first double-digit lead after consecutive baskets by Ellis, when he was on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Wayne Selden Jr. for a dunk and then had a strong layup to make it 21-11.

After the Jayhawks’ 77-59 victory over Kansas State on Wednesday night, coach Bill Self said his team had been outplayed and was “about as soft as I can remember one of our teams playing.”

The closest the Frogs got after Kansas’ 7-0 spurt in the first 2 minutes was at 10-7 after Parrish made a long jumper, then followed a Jayhawks turnover with a nifty spin move for a layup off the glass.

TIP-INS

Kansas: It was Ellis’ third double-double this season, all in Big 12 games, and 15th of his career. … The Jayhawks have won by at least 10 points in 13 of their 19 wins. …. Kansas played the first of four times on the road in a six-game span.

TCU: When the Frogs upset Kansas 62-55 in 2013, it was their first Big 12 win – coming in their first season after joining the conference. TCU is now 7-57 in Big 12 games. … TCU had as many turnovers (6) as field goals in the first half.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 14 West Virginia on Tuesday night.

TCU: Hosts Oklahoma State on Monday night.

Ellis helps No. 7 Kansas pull away from Kansas State, 77-59

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self was only slightly happier Wednesday night than Kansas State counterpart Bruce Weber, and the only reason for that was his seventh-ranked Jayhawks had won.

“I’ll be candid,” Self said after the 77-59 victory, “they outplayed us. They beat us to loose balls, they outhustled us. … That’s about as soft as I can remember one of our teams playing.”

Perry Ellis scored 19 points, and Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte Graham added 10 points apiece, to bail out the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12) on a night they were dominated on the glass.

Kansas managed two offensive rebounds while getting outrebounded 36-21 by an undersized opponent.

“It wasn’t a well-played game on our part at all,” Self said. “But I think K-State, they came ready to play. I thought their defense was really, really good. I think they shrunk the floor on ball screens, they control the glass. … For some reason we were still ahead.”

That reason was probably the Wildcats’ 23 turnovers.

“One of the things I put on the board was, `Make simple basketball plays,”‘ Weber said. “We try to do too much sometimes and don’t let the game come to us.”

Stephen Hurt had 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Wildcats, who have not won at Kansas since 2006 – three coaches ago. Wesley Iwundu added 15 points but also had six turnovers.

“Coach said, `You can’t let offense determine defense,’ and that happened to us,” Iwundu said.

Not in the first 15 minutes. That part of the game belonged to Kansas State, which clogged the lane and forced a handful of early turnovers of its own to take an early 18-10 lead.

“We can’t do that,” Graham said. “We have to come out and know everyone is coming after our heads.”

Eventually, Ellis and Mykhailiuk knocked down 3s to help start a first-half run, and Frank Mason III countered his balky shot with some hustle that created plays for others. After one hard landing, the guard got up to find the white sleeve covering his right calf and knee soaked through with blood.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats slowly began to lose their composure.

After Mason’s basket with 12 seconds to go, Hurt turned the ball over on the inbounds play, sending Weber into an uproar. He stormed across the court after one of the officials and appeared to be close to getting a technical foul before assistants reined him in.

“I tried to keep my poise. And for 16 minutes, I told the official, I kept it to myself,” Weber said. “You have to fight through it and be tougher than that.”

Then again, Weber wasn’t any happier when Brannen Greene knocked down a 3-pointer and was fouled, converting a rare four-point play with 2 seconds left that gave Kansas a 39-29 lead.

Kansas State trimmed its deficit to 47-45 on a basket by D.J. Johnson with just under 12 minutes to go, but Wayne Selden III answered with a 3 from the wing and a layup off an alley-oop pass.

That kicked off one more big run that allowed the Jayhawks to seize control of the game.

“It was amazing to me, we were up 10 at the half and I felt like it was a tie,” Self said. “It was one of those games, I looked up and I was surprised we had the lead.”

STOKES SURGERY

Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes will have surgery on his right knee Thursday. He was hurt in last Saturday’s win over Mississippi. “He’ll probably be out for a while,” Weber said without giving details on the nature of the surgery. “It’s a miracle that he could come back (this season).”

TIP-INS

Kansas State: Johnson had nine points before fouling out. He played 12 minutes. … The Wildcats finished with a 36-21 rebounding advantage. … Kansas State is 1-6 in road games.

Kansas: C Hunter Mickelson did not play while dealing with a high ankle sprain. … Landen Lucas, who fouled out, had eight points and six rebounds. … Kansas was 16 of 22 from the free throw line.

UP NEXT

Kansas State plays No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday.

Kansas visits TCU on Saturday.