No. 6 Kansas Sets Slew of Season-Highs to Top American, 89-57
Dec. 29, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan.– Career performances for freshman forward Perry Ellis, sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe and senior guard Travis Releford fueled an overwhelming 89-57 victory for the Kansas men’s basketball team, defeating American University in the final game of 2012, Saturday evening inside Allen Fieldhouse.
In the teams’ second meeting, and the first since the 1988 season, No. 6 Kansas (11-1) put the game out of reach in a hurry for the visiting American Eagles (4-9). The Jayhawks garnered a 20-point lead just 12 minutes in and built on it with first-half season-highs in both points (53) and field-goal percentage (69 percent).
By the end of the evening, KU annihilated several season-bests including three-pointers made (15), field goal percentage (63 percent, 34-for-54) and three-point field goal percentage (63 percent, 15-for-24). For the sixth-straight game, Kansas shot over 50 percent while holding its opponent to under 40-percent shooting for the 10th time this year (21-for-60).
Eleven Jayhawks scored in the win, led by Releford’s career-high five three-pointers to lead the all scorers with 19 points. Releford missed only once, connecting on seven of his eight shots. Dishing him the ball was Tharpe, who churned out a career-high 12 assists, making him the first Jayhawk to tally double-digit assists this season. He shot a near-perfect 3-for-4 from three-point range to fall one point short of a double-double. Ellis, however, did not fall short as he snagged 10 rebounds and scored 11 points for the first double-double of his career.
Seniors Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey chalked up 12 and 11 points, respectively. Like Tharpe, all of Johnson’s points also came from three-point range as he tied a season-high with four three-pointers.
Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore continued his trend of chalking up KU’s first points, hitting a long jump shot from the top of the key less than 20 seconds in. His usual first-half production was cut short, however, when he was whistled for his second foul before the first media timeout. Two quick fouls kept the Jayhawks’ leading scorer sidelined for nearly eight minutes. He finished the game with nine points, his first single-digit effort since scoring nine in the season opener.
Without its leading scorer, the Kansas defense forced American to the final seconds of its shot clock in several possessions to keep the Eagle offense from getting comfortable. A 16-2 run highlighted by a pair of threes from both Johnson and Tharpe didn’t allow the Eagles defense to get too comfortable either as KU raced ahead, 23-9 just over eight minutes into the contest.
Midway through the first half, Kansas was shooting over 70 percent from the floor as American battled to touch the 40 percent mark. Releford pushed the home team’s three-point shooting efficiency past 70 percent as well when he hit KU’s sixth trey of the half. The long ball handed KU its first of several 20-point leads of the game, 34-13.
With a sizable lead already secured, head coach Bill Self started working his reserves in during the opening frame. Freshman guard Rio Adams responded to the opportunity with a steal-turned-layup conversion for his first points of the contest, while Tharpe broke his career-high in assists before the first 20 minutes were up. With two minutes remaining, Ellis notched his third bucket of the half as Kansas broke the 50-point barrier by halftime for the second time this season.
A regular on the floor, but hot-handed nonetheless, Johnson drilled his third three of the evening to send Kansas to halftime with a lopsided 53-26 lead.
The second half opened with an 8-2 American run, prompting a quick timeout from the Kansas bench prior to the first media break. Self’s timeout did the trick as Kansas fired back with an 8-0 run of its own, thanks to a pair of threes, including the first of Ellis’ career.
American kept at it, drilling a pair of threes under the five-minute mark, but the Jayhawks had complete control. The lead peaked at 40 on the heels of a dunk from freshman guard Andrew White III and another three from Tharpe and would dip below 30 points only once more for the remainder of the game.
Freshman guard Evan Manning capped the Jayhawks three-point blowout with the first of his career as KU cruised to the 89-57 victory.
Kansas will welcome Temple to Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday, Jan. 6, at either 12:30 or 3:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS to close out non-conference play. Once the NFL playoffs television schedule is determined, tip time for the KU-Temple game will be announced. The Jayhawks, eight-time defending Big 12 Conference regular-season champions, will open league play when they host Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
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