Runnin' Away With It: No. 13/14 Kansas Tops UNLV 76-61
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Frank Mason III hit the ground first, followed by Jamari Traylor, then Wayne Selden, Jr. Diving to keep the possession alive, the scrappy effort ended with a Mason layup. The all-out hustle ignited No. 13/14 Kansas in the final 15 minutes, sending the Jayhawks past UNLV, 76-61, Sunday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas’ (11-2) first game in 2015 doubled as its last in non-conference play. This time, it was Mountain West foe UNLV (9-5) that traveled to Lawrence for a Sunday CBS showdown – making for a nearly identical reenactment of the Jayhawks’ final non-conference game of last season when KU was upset at home by fellow MWC member, San Diego State. With the Runnin’ Rebels rolling off a recent upset of third-ranked Arizona – its first defeat of 2014-15 – the Jayhawks were well aware of the task at hand.
The 16,300 in attendance were aware, as well. The 218th-consecutive sellout played a major factor in the victory. After watching their Jayhawks trail at halftime, the crowd was all hands on deck for the second half. Kansas came out firing six-straight points to start the final 20 minutes and outscored UNLV 37-23 after the diving trio hit the floor with 15:55 to play.
The game was circled on the calendar for Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre, Jr., who spent last season at Findlay Prep in Vegas and played with or against nearly all of the UNLV starting lineup and he didn’t disappoint. On Sunday, Oubre came away with his second double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 rebounds. For the second time this year, Kansas was staffed with at least five guys in double-figures.
Mason led the pack with 18 points, seven assists and a career-best four steals, making a clearer case everyday as the team leader. Junior forward Perry Ellis came up a rebound short of a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. Selden joined him with 16 points, including a season-high four three-pointers. Freshman forward Cliff Alexander contributed 10 points, good for his fifth game in double-figures this season.
As a unit, Kansas grabbed a season-best 45 rebounds and turned a not-so-hot first half into a stellar finish. KU hit 60 percent from the field (18-30) in the closing 20 minutes, bettered only by its 62.5 percent mark (5-8) from three-point range. KU held the Runnin’ Rebels to 10 rebounds and two blocks in the final half and outscored the visiting squad, 47-28.
Replacing all five of last season’s starters, UNLV came to town with the fifth-best recruiting class of 2015. Entering Sunday’s matchup, the Rebels ranked fifth in the nation in blocks per game, thanks to the Mountain West’s best shot blocker in sophomore forward Christian Wood and freshman forward Goodluck Okonoboh. And while it was KU’s Jamari Traylor that logged the first block of the game, the Rebels still finished with the 8-5 blocking advantage.
An excited Wayne Selden celebrates with
Mountain West Preseason Freshman of the Year Rashad Vaughn won the race to double-digits, notching his 10th point of the game less than three minutes into the second half. KU would not allow him to score again. Wood and senior point guard Cody Doolin tied for the team’s lead with 12 points apiece. Okonoboh swatted five shots, an opponent-high.
Selden got rolling early, knocking down a trio of threes to put his team up big in the opening five minutes. When Mason followed him with a breakaway layup, the Rebels couldn’t wait till the first media timeout to call one of their own down 13-4. Unwilling to participate in a blowout, UNLV immediately responded with an 8-2 run.
Though the Jayhawks kicked off the game shooting better than 70 percent, they just as quickly fell into a scoring drought. As the Rebels put up six-straight points to cut the deficit back to a single possession, KU failed to score for more than three minutes, missing seven-consecutive shots.
Alexander checked in and helped snap the drought thanks to back-to-back buckets, thus setting the table for what went on to be a grinding first half. When Vaughn attacked with a pair of threes, KU was holding a 21-20 edge. As halftime approached, Oubre notched his first field goal, but UNLV whittled the Jayhawk lead down to zero on the heels of Okonoboh’s third dunk of the day. And, on a three-point play by freshman guard Patrick McCaw, UNLV took its first lead.
UNLV’s 33-29 halftime advantage reflected the exact halftime score of last season’s non-conference finale against San Diego State. A year ago, it was Kansas that held the lead at the midway mark but the tables had turned by the final horn.
On Sunday, the Jayhawks flipped their fate. They immediately went to work on making a statement. After Ellis brought the score within two, Traylor went coast-to-coast for a one-handed slam that fired up a crowd in need of some fire. Not two minutes in, Kansas had retaken the lead, 35-33.
Up for the fight, the Rebels attacked by way of Vaughn and Doolin to stay within arm’s reach. KU’s diving threesome-turned-Mason-layup kept the Jayhawks up three, 41-38. Oubre was held to a single field goal in the opening frame, but let loose in the second. He drilled a pair of threes to help Kansas out to a 49-43 advantage.
Like Oubre, Wood was also held to a slow first half. He registered just four points and not a single block. Neither could stay quiet for long. Wood chucked up two threes of his own to see his team regain the lead, 51-49.
Mason took the stage. Attacking from three-point range, layups and fastbreak points, the Jayhawk point guard took his team on a 9-0 run. Alongside him, Selden broke out of his scoring drought. While Selden had nailed three threes in the game’s starting moments, he didn’t score for the rest of the half and through much of the second. Yet, his floater through the lane with less than seven minutes to play brought Kansas to its largest lead of the game, 63-53.
Naturally, the Rebels had a response. They received another three-point boost from Doolin, but the Jayhawks were prepared. Ready to lock it down, Selden sank his fourth three of the afternoon and tacked on a pair of free throws. Alexander threw down a dunk to cap the last rally Kansas would need. The Jayhawks closed non-conference play with confidence, 76-61.
Kansas, 10-time defending Big 12 regular-season champion, will open conference play at Baylor on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 8 p.m. (Central), on ESPNU. The Jayhawks then return home to host Texas Tech on Saturday, Jan. 10 at 2 p.m., on ESPNU. Kansas also hosts Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m., on ESPN2.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (13/16), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (13/48), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (5/5), Jr. F Perry Ellis (13/50), Jr. F Jamari Traylor (4/5)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 5-0
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (218th-consecutive sellout)
- Made Kansas 11-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the eighth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
- Kept Kansas an undefeated 5-0 all-time versus UNLV.
- Upped KU’s record to 7-0 in home games this season and 6-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in his 60th season of Kansas basketball.
- Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 15-straight games.
- Made Kansas 719-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 181-9 home mark under Self.
- Improved Self to 336-71 while at Kansas and 543-176 overall.
- Made KU 2,137-824 all-time.
- The Jayhawks did not control the opening tip of the game for the second time this season, however, both times KU didn’t win the tipoff the Jayhawks won the game (vs. Utah, vs. UNLV).
- For the second time in the 2014-15 season Kansas had five or more players reach double figures. Sophomore G Frank Mason III led the way with 18 while fellow sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr., and junior F Perry Ellis each chipped in 16 points. Freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., connected with 12 points while freshman F Cliff Alexander rounded out the leaderboard with an even 10 points.
- Kansas outdid the Rebels on the defensive glass (28-24), despite the fact that UNLV ranked fourth in the country with 29.5 defensive boards per game entering Sunday.
- The Jayhawks crashed the glass on Sunday and set a season-high 45 rebounds.
- Kansas went into the locker room trailing 33-29 – the fifth time the Jayhawks have trailed a game at the half this season and the second time inside Allen Fieldhouse in 2014. Florida claimed a 39-24 lead after 20 minutes of play on Dec. 5.
- Both times KU has trailed at the half inside Allen Fieldhouse this season the Jayhawks have converted the deficits into victories and are now 3-2 overall when trailing at the half.
- The second half saw Kansas shoot an even 60 percent from the field, converting 18-of-30 shots. The Jayhawks have now shot 60 percent or better in a single half three times this season – the best being a 20-of-30 performance for 66.7 percent in the first half against Rider on Nov. 24, 2014.
- Kansas’ 37 field goal attempts in the first half were the most by a Kansas team in 2014 and marked the most shots attempted in the first 20 minutes since shooting 37 times against Iowa State on Jan. 29, 2014.
- After beginning the contest 5-of-7 from the field at the first media timeout, Kansas quickly cooled off and only managed to make seven of its next 30 shots rounding out the first half.
- Sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr. converted his first three attempts from beyond the three-point line with the last coming at the 16:05 mark of the first half. Kansas then went through a drought and didn’t make another three until freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., rattled one home with 17:20 remaining on the clock in the second half – a span of 18 minutes and 22 seconds.
- The Jayhawks tied their season-high in fast break points with 2:04 to play in the first half after sophomore G Frank Mason III converted a layup for 11 KU points in transition. By game’s end, KU tallied 19 fast break points compared to four from UNLV.
- Entering the Temple game on Dec. 22, Kansas was peaking from the free throw line converting 200-of-268 (75 percent) shots from the charity stripe. Due to a 9-of-15 performance at Temple, a 13-of-22 showing against Kent State and an 8-of-14 run against UNLV, the Jayhawks are now on a skid of 30-for-51 over their last two games equaling out to 58.8 percent.
- Only eight players checked into the game on Sunday, the lowest this season and the least players to see time on the court for Kansas since eight players participated against Michigan on March 29, 2013.
- With only eight players seeing time on Sunday, Kansas tied a season-low with 10 points off of the bench against UNLV.
- Sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr., kicked off the scoring by draining three consecutive three-point attempts in the first four and a half minutes of the game. Selden’s four made triples for the game were a season-high.
- Selden’s eight three-pointers attempted are the most by a Jayhawk player this season.
- Selden was also the only Kansas player to make a three-point attempt in the first half of play. In the second half four different Jayhawks, including Selden, connected on a shot from beyond the arc.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III extended his double-digit scoring streak to 10-straight games, thanks to a layup giving him 11 points with 11:26 remaining in the contest. He finished with a game-high 18 points, marking the second time this season that he has led the Jayhawks in scoring.
- Mason also connected on a three-pointer and has now tallied at least one three in 11 of his 13 outings this season.
- Mason swiped away a career-high four steals in the game, he previously had three takeaways against Temple on Dec. 22, 2014.
- Despite a two-assist, five-turnover game at Temple (12/22), Mason still has 23 assists to nine turnovers over the last four games for a 2.56 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Despite Selden scoring nine points out of the gate, junior F Perry Ellis was the first Jayhawk to reach double figures with 12 points thanks to a three-pointer with 15:30 to play in the game.
- Making his 50th career start on Sunday, Ellis has now scored over 10 points 10 times this season.
- Ellis also turned in his second-straight game in double figures along with a 50-percent shooting mark from the field finishing 7-of-13 from the field for 16 points. Ellis previously had 15 points converting 7-of-14 shots against Kent State on Dec. 30, 2014.
- Freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., converted the second double-double of his career on Sunday after a 12-point and 10-rebound performance. He previously turned in 23 points and 10 rebounds against Lafayette on Dec. 20, 2014.
- Oubre has had a hot-hand as of late. Over the previous four contests he is nearly averaging a double-double with 16 points and 8.5 rebounds. Oubre has been shooting efficiently from the field evidenced by making 24-of-45 shots (53 percent) over the last four matchups.
POSTGAME QUOTES KANSAS
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On the message to the team at halftime:
“Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re not playing bad, keep playing with energy. It’s just one of those games. Sometimes you can be mad at guys when things don’t go well, but sometimes other teams just play better. I thought we did some good things the first half, we just needed to score. We had a couple of things that happened to us where we didn’t get a goaltending call and it turned into three points for them; (so it was) a five-point swing, things like that which turned in their favor. We had opportunities, so I just told them to keep doing what they were doing; (to) stay active and play with energy and things will work out.”
On Kelly Oubre, Jr.’s defensive effort:
“I thought he did really good. Rashad (Vaughn, UNLV freshman guard) is a guy who takes a lot of shots and he didn’t hunt for shots today. Kelly played within him today; he (Vaughn) had four shots in the first half today. Four shots for eight points, but I thought he did a good job on him. Kelly guarding him the vast majority of time was good. We did some good things defensively both halves, but (were) better in the second half. The biggest thing was that we rebounded the ball.”
On the energy in the building:
“We’ve been working on playing faster. When Perry (Ellis) or Jamari (Traylor) get it, they need to just bring it (up the court). Jamari is actually the fastest we have in transition. His play was a big-time play; it changed the whole game from an energy standpoint. I think the play that Wayne (Selden, Jr.) or Jamari diving on the ball, to me, those are the kind of plays that give your team confidence to win games and develop an identity. We haven’t had many plays like that this year. That was great.”
On neutralizing UNLV’s shot blockers:
“We made three’s; I think we were 5-8 in the second half. I thought we did a good job at taking it right at them. Also, keeping our body between them and the ball. Especially Frank (Mason III), he did a great job of that in the second half.”
On the team’s non-conference performance:
“From a record standpoint, I think it’s great. I’m not going to apologize for going 11-2 with that schedule. The two losses we had stunk; that makes it feel like it wasn’t as effective of a non-conference (schedule). Going 11-2 against the hardest non-conference schedule in the country, that’s a good record, especially when you don’t play a ton of games at home. The reality of it is we didn’t play as well as our record was. If you told us before the season we would be 11-2, we would have said, ‘That’s a good non-conference.’ Last year we played a good non-league slate and finished 9-4. From a win-loss standpoint, it was good. From a getting-better standpoint, I would say it was average. I do think that Lafayette was a good win; I thought Temple was obviously a disaster; I thought Kent State was a good win and today was a good win. We played the way we need to play moving forward.”
Kansas sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr.
On Frank Mason III’s ability to score at the rim:
“I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out so I can do it. He’s doing a great job.”
On Kelly Oubre, Jr.’s defense:
“It was great. He really got after them, kept them out of the lane. He didn’t let them doing anything they wanted to do; they wanted to go left, he kept them from going left.”
On his diving save in the second half to keep the ball from going out of bounds:
“We need more of that. We didn’t have much of that last year or this year (yet), so we are just trying to get more of that. More hustle plays, getting on the ground as a team. That’ll spark the energy.”
On taking this victory into Big 12 conference play:
“It’s a good step going into conference play, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the conference. It’s just a good step in the right direction and we just have to build off of it. “
Kansas freshman forward Cliff Alexander
On what changed in the second half for him:
“Coach (Self) told me I needed to start playing with a bigger motor, so that’s what I did. I was just trying to grab every ball and dunk everything that I could.”
On looking forward to Big 12 Conference play:
“Yes, we have to get ready for the competition. They’re going to be coming at us.”
Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason III
On his ability to score over taller defenders:
“That’s something I always work on in practice. We’ve got Cliff, Landen (Lucas), Perry (Ellis) and Jamari (Traylor) so I work on things like that during practice.”
On where his ‘pitbull’ intensity comes from:
“That’s just who I am. It’s what I take pride in, being tough and doing everything Coach needs me to do, on the offensive end and defensive end.”
On the team’s difference in mentality going into the second half:
“I’d say play every possession, buy in on the defensive end, disrupt passing lanes, and make them take tough shots.”
On if he is exceeding his own expectations so far this season:
“I always knew I was capable of playing this well, even though I still don’t think I’m playing to my full potential. I’m trying to do what my teammates need me to do and what Coach wants me to do.”
POSTGAME QUOTES UNLV
UNLV head coach Dave Rice
“First, I would like to congratulate Coach Self and Kansas. There is a reason why they have only lost nine home games in 12 years. They were fantastic, they brought great energy to start the game and they brought great energy to start the second half. I was proud of our new group in terms of coming in this type of environment. I thought it was very good for our young guys. We were right there for about 32 minutes and we have to continue to get better at winning these types of games. We give a lot of credit to Kansas. It was a great experience for us, we’ve got to start second half’s better for sure but we played hard for the entire game – it’s just we need to do a better job on the defensive boards”
On injuries and lack of depth:
“I think it’s just a part of the game. I’m sure Kansas had some guys that were nicked up, injured or sick. We were at full strength and it was a great opportunity for us even though it was a daunting challenge, as good as they are on their home court, and for the most part I was proud of our effort. They didn’t have more effort than us in the second half, they just out-executed us.”
On Kelly Oubre, Jr.:
“I got to see him a lot last year, just from the standpoint of him going to Findlay Prep and he just continues to get better. He is a versatile guy, that’s the first word that comes to mind is versatility. He can handle the ball. He can score on the block. He is a perfect complementary guy for their team. He can do a little bit of everything very well. He is going to be a fantastic player and I think with getting experience like the five freshman we are playing, I think Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre and the great job Coach Self does coaching them – those guys will be fantastic in their conference play.”
On Frank Mason’s athleticism:
“I think that’s obviously why he was recruited at Kansas because he is a fantastic player and he is one of many of the long tradition of great guards at Kansas. He is certainly somebody that can help them make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. You don’t fully appreciate him until you watch him play a few times. He just makes all the right plays.”
UNLV senior guard Cody Doolin
On playing at Allen Fieldhouse and how it can cause the game to get away from opponents:
“First, like Coach (Dave) Rice said, a lot of credit goes to them. They are a very good defensive basketball team. I thought coming out into the second half their pressure affected us a little bit as far as them denying us on the wing. We just have to be a little stronger and tougher, but I was very pleased with our effort in the first 32 minutes or so. Like you said, though, they out-executed us down the final stretch.”
On this game helping the team in upcoming Mountain West Conference play:
“If you can come in here and play well, you can do so in almost any building. It was really fun for all of us, even though we lost. It really doesn’t get any better than that in college basketball. I think we will learn from this and it’ll help us in the long run.”
On trying to carry the strong play over from the first half into the second:
“They just came out (from halftime) stronger than us. They really came out and pressured us and it affected us for the first five minutes or so and we dug ourselves into a hole. Overall, I think we are pleased, but the rest of the guards and I have to help out and rebounds. Those big guys can’t get all of them. That is something we will have to correct.”
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