With the Big 12 regular season title and No. 1 seed in next weeks’ conference tournament already wrapped up — not to mention KU’s solid standing in the race for the top seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament — there was nothing concrete to play for when the Jayhawks hosted Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse for the final game of the regular season on Saturday afternoon.
But with the battle marking the final games in the careers of four Kansas seniors — Evan Manning, Hunter Mickelson, Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis — the Jayhawks found plenty of motivation and played like a team that was still hungry.
Iowa State didn’t care and the Cyclones pushed the Jayhawks to the limit as they’ve been known to do both at home and at Allen Fieldhouse.
In the end, though, some clutch plays by some of KU’s biggest players gave Kansas the 85-78 victory and sent seniors Evan Manning, Hunter Mickelson, Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis out with a victory in their final game at Allen Fieldhouse.
Images from the Jayhawks' second meeting with the Cyclones on Senior Day, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
All four started — along with Frank Mason III — and Ellis put the finishing touches on a fantastic fieldhouse career with an emphatic slam with just under 30 seconds to play.
The Wichita senior led KU with 22 points and 7 rebounds on 9-of-19 shooting. Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonté Graham also added 16 points apiece.
The win moves top-ranked KU to 27-4 overall and 15-3 in Big 12 play.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Graham buried a corner three from in front of the Kansas bench with just under a minute to play that put the Jayhawks up 79-71 and capped an 11-0 run after the Jayhawks trailed 71-68 heading into the final five minutes.
• Offensive highlight: Late in the first half, junior guard Selden ripped down a rebound on one end and went coast to coast to the other end, knifing his way through the lane, around and under two ISU defenders to scoop a layup into the hoop that tied the game at 26. Midway through the second half, after a Deonte Burton three-pointer gave ISU a four-point lead, KU called timeout and got back-to-back buckets (sandwiched around a defensive stop) from Ellis, a tip-in offensive rebound, and Graham, a three-pointer from the wing, that put Kansas back in front.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self meets the media after the Jayhawks came up with crunch-time plays to beat Iowa State, 85-78, on Senior Day.
• Defensive highlight: Selden’s block from behind of what looked to be a Jameel McKay dunk early in the second half brought the fieldhouse faithful to their feet and left McKay completely bewildered. There were also a couple of memorable blocks in the first half. The first might have been goaltending, but on Senior Day inside Allen Fieldhouse, you’re going to get the benefit of the doubt. Because of that, Mickelson’s block of Georges Niang with 15 minutes to play in the first half started a fast break that gave KU an easy two points from Mason. Later in the first half, Cheick Diallo, who played with great energy and intensity when he was on the floor, picked up a no-doubter blocked shot when he swatted a baseline shot by Abdel Nader with a full hand.
Kansas basketball players Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Devonté Graham discuss the Jayhawks' Senior Day victory over Iowa State, to close the regular season.
• Key stat: KU won the turnover war. Although neither team committed many turnovers, the Jayhawks forced nine and scored 12 points off of them while the Cyclones forced just five and only tallied five points as a result.
• Up next: The top-seeded Jayhawks will open play in the Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., against the winner of the 8-9 game between Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Tip-off is set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.
— See what people were saying about KU’s Senior Day vs. Iowa State during KUsports.com’s live coverage.