A pair of strong starts to each half helped the 2nd-ranked Kansas University men's basketball team improve to 11-1 with a 78-53 victory over pesky UC-Irvine on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first half but watched the Anteaters respond with a 13-2 run to take the lead midway through the first half. Irvine stayed close or in front the rest of the first half and trailed just 28-26 at the break.
The Jayhawks opened the second half with a 9-0 run that pushed the tightly contested game into one that featured KU leading by a comfortable margin. The Jayhawks maintained a cushion the rest of the way and closed out the victory with a second half that featured much more energy, effort and urgency, particularly on the defensive end.
Perry Ellis led KU with 14 points and 9 rebounds and Frank Mason III (13 points, 5 assists), Brannen Greene (10 points) and Wayne Selden Jr. (8 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) helped lead KU to win No. 11.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: The Jayhawks sprinted out of the gate in the second half with a 13-2 run that turned a two-point halftime edge into a double-digit lead. The run not only gave KU a cushion but it also brought the fieldhouse crowd to life.
• Offensive highlight: All it took was a little gesture with his eyes from Mason and Landen Lucas knew to go to the rim. As he did, Mason threw a perfect lob over the top of that big UC-Irvine defense and all Lucas had to do was rise up and help the pass into the hoop. The back-side lob put Kansas up 14-13 after UC-Irvine had taken a 13-9 lead with a 13-2 run. Lucas also added a couple of other monster dunks in the second half, one on a follow and the other on a sweet set-up right at the rim.
• Defensive highlight: It was one of those moments that Bill Self loves and it came from Selden early in the second half. After Irvine's Luke Nelson misfired on a corner three-pointer, the ball caromed hard off the back iron and out past the wing. Selden, already racing up the floor, busted back to gain possession and in the same motion flipped a pass ahead to Devonté Graham, who pushed the pace and dished to Hunter Mickelson for a three-point play that would've impressed a contortionist. The hoop and free throw put KU up 44-28 with 15:54 to play. The game's other defensive highlight came with Mickelson on the other end, as Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye rejected a runner from Mickelson into the first row without leaving the floor.
• Key stat: Kansas both out-rebounded (35-28) and out-scored the bigger/taller Anteaters in the paint (30-20) during this game and it was clear that Self made the area by the rim a real emphasis leading up to this match-up.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday to kick off Big 12 Conference play against Baylor at 3 p.m.
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