Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden lift Kansas to its 17th straight victory, punching the Jayhawks’ ticket to the Elite Eight.
In a rough January stretch that saw the team lose three out of five, Kansas fans wondered if the early-season woes that have plagued KU in recent tournaments would once again be a problem. The Jayhawks have not lost since, and after a 79-63 victory over fourth-seeded Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen, KU is just one win away from advancing to another Final Four.
After starting its last game on a frantic run, Kansas struggled out of the gates against Maryland’s stifling defense. The Jayhawks made just four of their first 22 field goals. With the exception of Perry Ellis, who scored 10 of KU’s first 14 points, the Jayhawks appeared dazed by the Terrapins’ shot-blocking ability. Maryland blocked five shots in the first half, and Kansas was unable to do much damage from behind the three-point line to make up for it. Wayne Selden Jr. hit KU’s first three of the game with 55 seconds left in the half, and the Jayhawks took a slim 36-34 lead into intermission.
On KU’s first basket of the game, Ellis passed Paul Pierce for eighth-place on the all-time Kansas scoring list.
The Kansas bench provided major contributions in the first half, which was encouraging after KU’s non-starters combined for just three points in 29 minutes on Saturday. Carlton Bragg’s seven first half rebounds led the team, while Jamari Traylor and Svi Mykhailiuk both made baskets to help jump-start the offense. The Jayhawks shot 41% from the floor in the first 20 minutes, yet they took a lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Kansas offense finally came alive. The Jayhawks hit their first six shots after halftime to open up a seven-point lead. The two leading scorers, Ellis and Selden, keyed Kansas’ surge. The Terrapins had no answer for either one.
Maryland cut the deficit to seven with 10 minutes left, and it had four different possessions with a chance to make it even closer. The empty trips wound up dooming the Terps, as it wouldn’t make another basket for another six minutes. By that point, Kansas had swelled its lead to 16, all but punching their ticket to the Elite Eight.
Poor ball-handling and three-point shooting ultimately undid Maryland. The Terrapins were just 5/25 from three-point range in the game, with misses often coming in the most important moments.
Another dooming factor for the Terrapins was Perry Ellis. The senior forward put together the most brilliant game of his tournament career, pouring in 27 points, shooting 10/17 from the floor.
In three games this tournament, Ellis is shooting 66% from the floor (27/41) and has 69 points. No Kansas four-year player under Bill Self has failed to reach a Final Four, and Ellis is just one win away from continuing that trend.
Selden’s emergence as a tournament force is also encouraging for Jayhawk fans. In four career tournament games before this season, Selden accumulated just 10 total points on 4/21 from the floor. Thus far in 2016, it’s been a completely different story. Selden has scored 55 points on 20/41 from the field.
The point is clear: when Ellis and Selden are playing at their best, it’s going to be very hard for any team to deny the Jayhawks a national championship.
This is the deepest the Jayhawks have gone in the NCAA tournament since 2012. Kansas will play Villanova, the No. 2 seed in the South region, on Saturday evening for the right to go to the Final Four.
- Perry Ellis: a season-high 27 points (10/17 FG, 7/7 FT), and five rebounds. He was the star of the game in 30 minutes.
- Ellis now has 1,794 career points, which is 18 shy of Keith Langford for seventh on the all-time Kansas scoring list.
- Wayne Selden Jr.: 19 points (7/16 FG), seven rebounds, six assists, and a steal in 35 minutes. He’s a close second for KU’s tournament MVP thus far.
- Frank Mason III: 11 points (4/11 FG), five rebounds, and four assists in 38 minutes. He really struggled in the first half, but the bounce in his legs returned after halftime.
- Devonte’ Graham: two points (0/2 FG) and three assists to five turnovers in 37 minutes. Oddly, it was the second time in three games where he didn’t make a basket.
- Landen Lucas: 14 points (6/7 FG) and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes. Keep in mind that this was against one of the biggest, most block-happy defenses in the country. He was nothing short of spectacular.
- Carlton Bragg: no points, but eight rebounds, seven of which came in the first half. He logged 10 minutes.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: four points, one shot in 11 minutes.
- Jamari Traylor: two points in 10 minutes.
- Kansas: 47% from the floor, 33% from three, and 86% from the line.
- Maryland: 40%, 20%, and 70%.