A week ago, Bill Self called out his superstar senior power forward and stated that he needed to “step up” in order for Kansas to reach its ceiling.
On a night when the Jayhawks passed their first road test of the season, Perry Ellis’ steady performance was exactly what his coach had in mind when he made the original statement. Ellis scored 20 points, 14 of which in the first half, to pilot Kansas to a 70-57 victory at San Diego State on Tuesday night.
Despite a 42-point win over Montana on Saturday, Perry Ellis attempted just seven of the Jayhawks’ 58 shots (12%). This time, he was much more aggressive, taking 15 of his team’s 61 shots (25%). It’s the most in one game for Ellis since November 17.
In a raucous environment, the Jayhawks silenced the sellout crowd by dominating the first half. Kansas stretched the lead up to 16 with three minutes until halftime, and with Ellis leading the charge, the Jayhawks entered halftime with a 39-27 lead.
At halftime, Bill Self surely emphasized the importance of maintaining the double-digit lead. If Kansas were to come out cold, the Viejas Arena crowd would get right back into the game, potentially fueling an Aztecs rally.
That’s exactly what happened to open the second half. The Jayhawks found themselves on the wrong end of a 12-4 run that got San Diego State back to within four. Kansas couldn’t buy a basket, and Ellis turned the ball over to hand the Aztecs a sure transition opportunity. Jeremy Hemsley missed a simple layup, but Winston Shepard grabbed the offensive rebound and went up for a putback dunk. However, he missed as well, blowing San Diego State’s chance to get the game back within two points.
What followed was a 13-0 run by the Jayhawks to end any chance the Aztecs had of pulling off an upset. Wayne Selden, who played just two minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, went on a flurry and scored all seven of his points in a three-minute window. Jamari Traylor, who was lackluster offensively but made some clutch free throws and grabbed a handful of tough rebounds, played the role of anchor to re-spark the Jayhawk offense. In the blink of an eye, Kansas had gone from being up by just four to leading by 17.
Kansas did not trail at any point in its 70-57 victory. After a disappointing collapse against Michigan State back in November, the Jayhawks have won nine straight games to run their record to 10-1.
Overall, the Jayhawks played very well, all things considered. In an unfriendly environment, KU was in complete control of the game for all but about eight minutes. Though Kansas was outrebounded, it forced 15 turnovers and held the Aztecs to just 37% from the field.
Up next: Kansas is off for the next week for Christmas break. It returns to action next Tuesday against UC Irvine in Allen Fieldhouse.
- Ellis: 20 points (8/15 FG), three rebounds, and three assists in a game-high 35 minutes. The only downside of his night was a whopping five turnovers.
- Traylor: six points (1/4 FG), KU-high six rebounds, KU-high three steals in 21 minutes. He made a handful of great plays on the defensive end that helped Kansas pull away late.
- Greene: four points (1/3 three-point FG) in 26 minutes. He also (this is not a typo) was awesome defensively and seems to be a determined player in the wake of his suspension.
- Mason: 12 points (5/12 FG) and three assists in 30 minutes. He also had four rebounds, which led all KU starters.
- Graham: 10 points (4/10 FG), three assists, and two steals in 34 minutes.
- Svi: nothing in seven minutes. He did not play in the second half.
- Mickelson: two points and three rebounds in eight minutes. He really was a non-factor after the first TV timeout.
- Bragg: two points in six minutes.
- Diallo: four points in nine minutes.
- Lucas: nothing in just two minutes.
- Kansas shot 43% from the floor, 42% from three, and 91% from the free throw line.
- San Diego State out-rebounded Kansas, 35 to 33 overall and 15 to 13 on the offensive glass.
- John Higgins went to the monitor two times for non-possession related circumstances. Of course he did.