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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No. 2 Jayhawks open both halves strong to beat UC Irvine

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket past UC Irvine guard Aaron Wright (32) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket past UC Irvine guard Aaron Wright (32) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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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.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. UC Irvine


— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage

By the Numbers: Kansas 78, UC Irvine 53

By the Numbers: Kansas 78, UC Irvine 53

Comments

Rodney Pain 5 years, 3 months ago

Although 10 minutes of the first half were out and out rank, overall it wasn't a terrible effort. We just didn't make shots after we righted the offense. 2nd half we did and that's how we turn an anemic game into a 25pt blowout. Great work. Take care of Baylor, then take care of OU to secure our #1 spot.

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