By Matt Tait
It was billed as a battle of the super stars, and neither KU's Andrew Wiggins (22 points, 10 rebounds) nor Duke's Jabari Parker (27 points, 9 rebounds, 19 points in the first half) let us down.
But it was Perry Ellis, who poured in a career-high 24 points, who stole the show in leading fifth-ranked Kansas University to a 94-83 victory over No. 4 Duke at the United Center in Chicago.
Ellis was sensational in the first half to keep KU close and then flashed his entire repertoire in the second half, playing D, hitting free throws and even knocking down a three-pointer.
He finished 9-of-13 from the field, 5-of-6 from the free throw line and added seven rebounds, two assists and two steals to help KU improve to 2-0 on the season.
After a slow start in which he only played nine minutes in the first half, Wiggins finished with a bang, picking up a bunch of key buckets in the second half and, perhaps more importantly, finally flashing some of that swagger and excitement that people have come to expect.
Seasons are not made or broken in November, but there's no question that this was a huge victory for the young Jayhawks.
“We didn't guard the ball worth a flip, but we did compete and we made our free throws late,” Self told ESPN's Andy Katz after the win. “We've got a long ways to go, but it was nice to see Wayne (Selden) step up, Jo (Embiid) was great and I thought Frank (Mason) was terrific.”
All three, along with Wiggins are freshmen, as is Duke's Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle, who looked great in the opening game won by Michigan State. Self, asked by Katz about this year's freshman class, simply smiled and said: “They're pretty good. I'm glad we got one of them.”
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Perry Ellis made a solid one-on-one move midway through the second half that cut Duke's lead to 56-53. Ellis' bucket was followed by Frank Mason steal and dunk from Ellis on a sweet dime from Wayne Selden. The mini-run pulled KU to within 56-55 and forced Duke into a timeout with 13 minutes left. Three trips and a couple minutes later, a breakaway dunk from Wiggins gave KU a 61-60 lead.
• Offensive highlight: How about the transition alley-oop early in the second half from Frank Mason to Andrew Wiggins, who flew through the air and hung long enough and high enough to catch the slightly underthrown lob and still flush it. There wasn't a ton of power behind it, but the whole play was a picture of grace and athleticism.
• Defensive highlight: Perry Ellis' steal and dish ahead with 1:17 to play gave KU an 87-81 lead and led to the moment of the night from Wiggins, who followed up a sweet step-back jumper with a high-flying finish and an explosion of emotion in front of the KU bench. The steal started it all, though. Just another way Ellis put his stamp all over this one.
• Key stat: Wayne Selden's entire line: 5-of-10 from the floor for 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Others had bigger numbers, but so many of Selden's stats came at critical times, either at key moments in the game or when the Jayhawks needed a calming force.
• Up next: The Jayhawks get a week off and will return to action next Tuesday for a home game against Iona at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
Check back to KUSports.com later for much more about the Jayhawks' victory
Andrew Wiggins hits 2 more FTs for KU.
Frank Mason steps up to the foul line and hits both.