Louisville, Ky. Perry Ellis simply does not want his magical senior season to end.
Ellis, Kansas University’s 6-foot-8 senior forward/first-team all-Big 12 pick from Wichita, scored an NCAA Tournament personal-best 27 points off 10-of-17 shooting (7-of-7 from the line) in the Jayhawks’ 79-63 South Regional Sweet 16 victory over Maryland on Thursday at KFC Yum! Center.
The victory propels the top-seeded Jayhawks (33-4) into Saturday’s 7:50 p.m. (Central time) Elite Eight contest against Villanova (32-5).
“All I’m trying to do is leave it all on the floor,” Ellis said after grabbing five rebounds and helping KU to a 43-28 advantage on the boards against a tall No. 5-seed Maryland team. “It’s the same mindset as always. I just want to attack,” Ellis added.
View a gallery of images from the Jayhawks' Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Terrapins.
He scored four points in a pivotal 9-0 run (Wayne Selden, Jr. had five of his 19 in the same surge) that busted a 43-43 tie and gave KU a nine-point advantage with 14:43 left. Ellis also had nine straight points for KU in a 9-5 run that opened a 59-48 lead.
In other words, he was marvelous on a day Landen Lucas scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Frank Mason III hit for 11 points, five boards and four assists.
KU was able to advance comfortably on a night Devonté Graham had five turnovers and just two points in 37 minutes. Turns out Graham didn’t eat all day because of sickness and he cramped during his 37-minute stint.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self answers questions from the media following the Jayhawks' 79-63 victory over Maryland in Louisville, Kentucky.
“This is why he came back to school,” KU coach Bill Self said of Ellis, who toyed with the idea of entering the NBA Draft after his junior year.
“He could have bolted and been a mid-second-round pick. He comes from such a good family, rock solid. He couldn’t hurt himself by coming back to school. He has a chance to leave KU with a legacy that would allow him to be a hero there for a lifetime. When we got Perry, we knew he would be good,” Self added of the player who has hit 27 of 41 shots in three NCAA games this postseason. “He’s done some things that have allowed him to be great. It’s so good to see kids who spent time in the program and (have) gone through ups and downs experience some success this time of year.”
Ellis acknowledged he and his teammates have taken to heart the “Countdown to Houston” banners that have been in the locker room “for some time now.
“We see that every day,” Ellis said. “It’s motivation for us that the days are counting down. It’s motivation.”
Freshman Carlton Bragg, who contributed eight rebounds in 10 minutes — every rebound counted against a tough Maryland team — said Ellis was “amazing. He helped us a lot getting buckets. That’s what he does.
“He keeps getting closer and closer to his goal,” Bragg added of the Final Four. “I think he’s ready. He’s going to get it.”
Noted senior Jamari Traylor, who had two points in 10 minutes: “Perry was Perry. As he’s been playing lately ... he’s been so hot. Just being aggressive, getting fouls, knocking down shots. Getting in the lane. I feel like there wasn’t too much he couldn’t do this game.”
The Jayhawks managed a 36-34 lead at halftime after hitting 40.5 percent of their shots. That heated up to 56 percent the second half.
Anything said at halftime with the Terps (27-9) hanging close?
“Wayne and Frank were telling us, ‘This is our home. Let’s stay here another two, three days,’’’ Bragg said. “They were taking charge before the game.”
Next up is No. 2 seed Villanova, a 92-69 winner over Miami. Winner goes to the Final Four. Loser’s season is over.
“They like to press, run a lot. They are some tough dudes,” Bragg said.
Noted Self of the Wildcats: “I’ve seen them sparingly on TV, watched some games going into this week. Their guards are so clever and good. We’ll have to do some things to not allow them to play in their comfort zone. They were so good on offense today. They create havoc defensively and get confidence offensively because their defense is so aggressive and sound.”
• Greene sits: KU junior Brannen Greene did not dress for the Maryland victory because of back spasms. Self isn’t counting on getting much from Greene in the Elite Eight game either. “He hasn’t seemed to be the same for a while now,” Self said. “It’s a shadow of what he can be as far as moving.”
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