Fight to the Finish: No. 8/9 Kansas Downs Texas, 69-64
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Every second was precious – evidenced by nearly every player diving on the floor after a loose ball with 14 seconds on the clock. Though the ensuing possession arrow went against No. 8/9 Kansas, the Jayhawks didn’t allow another point, finally locking down the back-and-forth brawl against Texas, 69-64, on ESPN College GameDay Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse.
For the 11th time in College GameDay’s 11 years of existence, Kansas (23-6, 12-4) was featured on the ESPN event – and for the fourth time, it was against Texas (17-12, 6-10). Saturday’s slugfest left little question as to why. The Jayhawks trailed at halftime, neither team shot over 40 percent on the afternoon and the two tormented each other for 24 combined blocks.
What’s more, Kansas was forced to play the nation’s best shot-blocking team without its best blocker. Prior to the contest, Kansas announced that freshman Cliff Alexander, the Jayhawks’ leading scorer in KU’s win in Austin, would not play. Well aware that his team needed him, junior forward Perry Ellis played his heart out. He led all players with season-highs in points (27) and rebounds (13), good for his seventh double-double of the year. He went 9-for-21 from the floor, scored 14 points in both halves and missed just twice from the free throw line (10-for-12).
Junior forward Perry Ellis was a monster against
Texas, leading all players with
28 points and 13 rebounds.Although Kansas outrebounded the Longhorns in Austin, entering Saturday’s matchup, Texas held the NCAA’s lead in rebound margin (+9.5). The Longhorns sure showed it as they racked up a 10-3 rebound edge in the opening minutes, but Kansas proved scrappier by game’s end with its 41-39 rebound advantage. On the blocking front, Texas swatted KU’s first shot of the game, and would go on to block an opponent-high 14 shots, but Kansas totaled its second-best mark of the season with 10. KU forced five steals and gave up just six turnovers.
For the second-straight game, freshman guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. joined Ellis on the leaderboard, this time with 15 points, nine rebounds and a career-high three blocks. Backing him up was sophomore point guard Frank Mason III with 12 points and three assists. Mason was also responsible for KU’s only three-pointer of the game, but sensing the three ball wasn’t there, Kansas only attempted eight all day, which made for a 36-26 advantage in the paint.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor led the Longhorns with 17 points and led the floor with eight assists. Junior guard Demarcus Holland was lethal with 15 points and a game-high three three-pointers, while freshman Myles Turner came in off the bench for 10 points and five blocks. Senior forward Jonathan Holmes who averages more than 10 points per game, was held to just two points.
Watching Ellis’ first shot of the game get blocked out of bounds, UT’s blocking message was delivered. The Jayhawks looked to answer immediately. Oubre made it known that Texas wouldn’t run rampant in the post, stuffing a Cameron Ridley layup. On the other end of the floor, sophomore forward Landen Lucas and Ellis slammed back-to-back dunks to take the early lead, 9-8.
Defense stole the show through much of the opening half. At the midway mark, both teams hovered around 40 percent shooting. Except for Ellis, the scoring machine. While the rest of his squad was slower to contribute, the junior forward had 12 points in less than 11 minutes despite his team trailing, 22-21. Where Texas had success slashing to the basket, Kansas was still looking for the same. On cue, Mason drove the lane for an and-one layup. On the next play, Oubre picked off a Texas pass and turned that one into an and-one dunk, pushing Kansas in front, 27-24.
Field goals were scarce after that. Kansas missed five-straight heading into the final minute of the half, but the Jayhawk defense prevented Texas from using it against them. The Longhorns had also missed four in a row, until a last-second three from Holland bounced off the rim and through the net. Texas took a 34-31 lead to halftime.
The second half didn’t start any flashier. The teams went a combined 0-for-8 from the floor, six of which belonged to the Longhorns. Sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr., broke the silence with his first field goal of the day to knot the score at 34-34. When Ridley broke open Texas’ slow start, however, he blew the door wide open. UT knocked down six shots in a row to build its largest lead of the game, 48-42.
With 10 minutes to play, Kansas was in need – in need of a spark, made shot, defensive stop, anything.
Selden stepped in first. His drive to the hoop resulted in a pair of free throws. Naturally, Ellis was next. The game’s leading scorer threw down six-straight points to cut the deficit to two.
Then came the crowd. Roaring in support, the sold-out stands intensified when Selden blocked Ridley’s shot and outdid themselves again when Oubre’s and-one finally returned the lead to the home team. By the time Mason sank the Jayhawks’ first three of the game, Kansas was holding tight to a 56-54 lead under the six-minute mark.
The grip grew tighter. Kansas made its next two, Texas missed its next two – and KU tallied its biggest lead of the game, 61-56.
Texas wasted no time. The teams had battled themselves ragged for the entirety of the game and that wouldn’t change in the waning moments. The Longhorns pulled within a point, 62-61, but after fighting its way back into the lead, Kansas wasn’t about to give it back. Ellis locked in for a layup, and Lucas finished the dunk assisted by Selden.
The Longhorns stayed just as collected. Kendal Yancy ignored the five-point deficit with 90 seconds to play and hit a crucial three-pointer. The loose ball dive came shortly thereafter, but Kansas would not allow Texas to score again in the last minute and a half. Free throws from Oubre and Ellis sealed the gritty win, 69-64.
Kansas’ senior night, with Christian Garrett being the lone KU senior on the roster, will be Tuesday, March 3, against West Virginia on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (Central). The Jayhawks will close out the regular season at No. 16/17 Oklahoma on Saturday, March 7, which will be televised on ESPN with a 3 p.m. tip.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (29/32), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (29/64), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (21/21), Jr. F Perry Ellis (29/66), Jr. F Jamari Traylor (15/16)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 25-8
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (226-consecutive sellouts)
- Made Kansas 23-6 overall, giving KU 23 victories for the 26th-straight season, beginning in 1989-90.
- Jumped KU’s record to 12-4 in Big 12 play, marking the 15th-consecutive season that the Jayhawks recorded 12 league wins, beginning in 2000-01.
- Extended KU’s all-time series advantage to 25-8, including a 13-1 mark in games played in Lawrence and an 11-1 advantage in Allen Fieldhouse.
- Marked the 23rd-straight victory inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 14-0 record in the venue this season. Overall, the Jayhawks are 727-109 all-time inside their storied venue and 189-9 at home under Bill Self.
- Improved Self to 348-75 while at Kansas, 15-8 against Texas (15-6 at Kansas) and 555-180 overall.
- Made KU 2,149-828 all-time.
- Kansas participated in its 11th ESPN College GameDay contest on Saturday, its sixth all-time at home. The Jayhawks appeared on the broadcast earlier this season at Iowa State (1/17/15), but this is their first home appearance since Feb. 6, 2013 (also against Texas). In fact, of their 11 College GameDay appearances, four have been against the Longhorns. After Saturday, the Jayhawks are 6-5 all-time on College GameDay, including a 5-1 mark at home.
- Kansas is now 6-5 when trailing at halftime this season.
- As a whole, Kansas recorded seven blocks in the first half, its most since swatting eight shots in the second half of the game at TCU on Jan. 28, 2015.
- The Jayhawks finished the game with a total 10 blocks, their second-highest of the year.
- Over the previous four games Kansas had not recorded more than four blocks in a single contest.
- Kansas shot 90 percent from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes of play, making 11-of-13 shots, its highest percentage made out of 10 attempts since nailing a perfect 100 percent (10-for-10) against Utah on Dec. 13, 2014.
- KU’s 36.2 percent shooting from the field (21-of-58) is the lowest Kansas has shot in a victory this season.
- The Jayhawks made a total of 26-of-32 (81.3 percent) from the free throw line in the game, marking the sixth time this year Kansas has shot over 80 percent from the charity stripe.
- Kansas’ bench is typically very productive when checking into the contest, producing an even 23 points-per-game. However, on Saturday in the first 20 minutes of play KU had subbed five members off of the bench who combined for just two points, two rebounds and two blocks.
- KU was outscored 27-7 in the bench points column, the second-largest margin of the season (-22 vs. Kentucky).
- The Jayhawk reinforcements finished the contest with seven points, one away from the season-low of six points scored at West Virginia on Feb. 16. They also contributed six rebounds, one assist and two blocks.
- The Jayhawks trailed at halftime (34-31) for the 11th time this season. A three-pointer as time expired on the first 20 minutes of action by Texas’ DeMarcus Holland gave the Longhorns the first period advantage.
- After its 2-of-13 performance from three-point range at Kansas State, the Jayhawks continued their cold-streak from downtown ending the first half 0-of-5 from long range.
- Up until the 6:32 mark of the second half when sophomore G Frank Mason III connected on a three, Kansas was 0-for-7 from deep over its last three halves of play including an 0-of-8 showing at Kansas State on Monday and an 0-for-5 performance in the first half against Texas.
- Mason’s three gave the Jayhawks their only make from downtown and would’ve resulted in a snapped streak of 28-consecutive games with a three-point basket dating back to an NCAA Tournament game against Eastern Kentucky on March 21, 2014.
- Kansas finished the game 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from long range.
- KU’s 1-of-8 three-point shooting on Saturday is the worst in a Big 12 Conference game since the Jayhawks went 1-of-11 in a double-overtime game at Oklahoma State on Feb. 20, 2013.
- KU’s three-point deficiency was covered up in large part thanks to 18 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes of action. The Jayhawks completed the game with 36 points scored in the painted area compared to Texas’ 26.
- KU only registered three turnovers in the first half and finished the game with six turnovers, its fewest since turning the ball over just three times at Texas on Jan. 24, 2015.
- The Jayhawks trailed 20 minutes and 39 seconds in the game. KU only led for 11 minutes, but that included the last five minutes and 43 seconds of the game in which the Jayhawks never relinquished their lead.
- The Jayhawks had their shots turned away at the rim a season-high 14 times, the most blocks by an opponent since the media guide box scores included the stat in the 1988-89 season.
- Both teams combined 24 blocked shots are the most by two teams in the same game since the 1988-89 season.
- In two games played against Texas this season the Jayhawks have only allowed the Longhorns to record three steals, two Saturday and one on Jan. 24.
- KU’s 41-39 advantage on the rebounding column marked just the fifth time this season Texas has been out-gained on the glass.
- Junior F Perry Ellis scored 28 points on Saturday to push his career total to 1,109, passing Charlie Black (41st, 1,082) on KU’s all-time scoring list.
- Ellis turned in his seventh double-double of the season and the 13th of his career with a team season-best 28 points, while snatching another team season-high 13 rebounds.
- Ellis’ 13th double-double moves him into a tie for 17th with Norm Cook, Mark Randall, and Greg Ostertag.
- Ellis continued his scoring production he has been on over the last nine games. After scoring 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the first half against the Longhorns, Ellis has now been in double-figures for the last nine consecutive games.
- A free throw with 8:16 to play in the game gave Ellis his third-straight 20-point performance, the most since in consecutive contests since Andrew Wiggins posted 41, 30 and 22 points in three-straight contests on March 8, 13 and 14 of 2014.
- Ellis led all players at halftime with 14 points, making 4-of-10 shots. For the season, Ellis has tallied double-figures in a single half an impressive 18 times.
- Added to his 23 points against TCU (2/21) and his 24 point outburst at Kansas State (2/23) marks the first time in his career that Ellis recorded back-to-back-to-back 20+ point performances.
- Ellis’ 21 field goal attempts are the most by a Jayhawk since Andrew Wiggins took 21 shots against Iowa State on March 14, 2014.
- Over the last three games Ellis has made 28-of-47 shots (59.5 percent) and is averaging 18.7 points per outing to go along with 9.6 rebounds.
- Spanning the previous nine games, dating back to the Kansas State game on Jan. 31, Ellis posting 18.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and has made 54 percent of his field goal attempts (64-of-119).
- Ellis also was a force on the defensive side of the ball turning in a career-high-tying three blocks against Texas.
- Freshman F Kelly Oubre, Jr., posted 15 points, the 12th time he has been in double-figures this season. His nine rebounds were second only to Ellis’ 13.
- Oubre’s active hands led him to a season-best three blocked shots against Texas, his previous high was one rejection recorded seven separate times.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III scored in double figures for the 25th time this season with 12 points.
- Sophomore F Landen Lucas played a career-high 25 minutes against Texas and finished the game with five points and four rebounds.
- Freshman G Svi Mykhailiuk registered his first-career block Saturday.
POSTGAME QUOTES KANSAS
Kansas head coach Bill Self
“It was a great day all around. First of all, our crowd was unbelievable. On a bad-weather day like this, to have that crowd is unreal. I even told the officials before the game, ‘Would you know it’s the worst weather day of the year and people (are) packed in here.’ The crowd was great. We didn’t play great but the reason we didn’t play great was that they (Texas) played really well. When you have somebody guard you, somebody rebounds and somebody executes, it’s hard to look good all the time. Of course, we didn’t make any three-point shots except for that one Frank Mason III had. I think that was the shot that gave us the lead for the first time. We played from behind the whole game, but we played pretty smart offensively. We played through Perry Ellis; Kelly Oubre, Jr., was great; Frank battled the whole game, other guys gave us some good minutes, but we’re playing with the best player in the league. Right now, Perry Ellis is the best player in the league and he was absolutely dominant. He was fantastic.”
On Perry Ellis’ performance against Texas and all of February:
“He only played 38 minutes. He shouldn’t be tired because he rested two minutes. He was great. Our bench wasn’t effective tonight with the exception of Landen Lucas. I thought Hunter Mickelson gave us five good minutes the first half. But we didn’t have any momentum at halftime after giving up that three late because we didn’t guard the ball. You could look at it very simply and say you’ve got to guard the ball better than that, but that cat (Isaiah Thomas) is hard to guard. He is fast and he’s got it on a string. I thought Frank did a decent job on him, but our help wasn’t quite as good as we needed it to be. Considering we didn’t make any shots, we shot 36 percent (for the game), we had to do some things to win the game. What we did was we defended for the most part, we didn’t turn the ball over. How about getting a combined nine turnovers (three in Austin, six today) in two games against a really good team? I’m proud of our guys, I couldn’t be happier, unless we take care of business on Tuesday, then I’ll be a lot happier.”
On Texas’ 14 blocks:
“There were a lot of loose-ball plays. It seemed like we had two or three loose-ball plays late in the second half where maybe Kelly came up with it and gave the ball to Perry for a layup. We didn’t get any scoring out of our backup bigs. Landen gave us five, but Jamari Traylor and Hunter didn’t give us any. If you look at it, we got 33 points from our two bigs, but let’s call it like it is. Perry was great. He’s been great for the last month. I’m really happy, you’ve got to be able to ride a guy during the postseason. Hopefully we’re going to get to the point where we could get a couple other guys stepping up while we continue to ride him. It was not a good win, it was a great win against a team that on this day could beat just about anybody and we were able to hold them off.”
On an opportunity to clinch a portion of the Big 12 championship Tuesday:
“We got help again. We almost got help from TCU. TCU was up four with like five minutes left, and then OU make plays down the stretch. I didn’t see any of the Iowa State at K-State game. It’s hard to say that our brethren helped us out, but they did. Then, of course, Baylor played well against West Virginia. It was a good day.”
On Cliff Alexander’s eligibility:
“People may think we’re withholding information, but we told them everything we know. We knew that there was a potential issue earlier this week and then as a precautionary measure, who knows what that means, we were told that we should, and we made the decision to, hold him until we get it resolved. Hopefully it’s going to be something that doesn’t take much time at all. Obviously something has come up, and I don’t know what that something is. Hopefully I’ll find out and there can be a resolution soon so we can get him back out on the court.”
Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason III
On Perry Ellis’ performance:
“Perry was great, he did an unbelievable job on the boards and on the offensive end.”
On getting to the free throw line:
“We didn’t want to settle. Shots weren’t going down well, so Coach (Self) just kept telling us to attack, attack, attack, so that’s what we did.”
On hurting his ankle:
“I’m fine, (it’s) just a minor injury. My toe just hurt a little bit, but I will be fine.”
On overcoming Texas’ shot blocking:
“We just had to stay aggressive and not be scared to shoot just because they blocked a few of our shots. Coach told us to be aggressive and we told ourselves to stay aggressive, and I think that’s what we did.”
On this team not being the team to end the Big 12 Conference win streak:
“Tonight’s game helped us out a lot. We had a talk before the game about not being the team to end the streak and I think guys took pride in it. We came out tonight and played hard and got the win.”
Kansas junior forward Perry Ellis
On the play that put Kansas up 64-61:
“The ball was just bobbling around, I just happened to be there and got it and tried to put it up really quickly and that was the play. I knew we needed to get a bucket so I was just trying to be in the right position at the right time and I happened to be.”
On if he ranks this game as potentially his best at Kansas:
“I would say it’s one of my most aggressive games I’ve played. I felt like I was just aggressive out there the whole time. It was a great feeling going out there and attacking. No matter whether I missed a shot or got a shot blocked, I just kept going and that was a great feeling.”
On finding out Cliff Alexander wouldn’t be playing tonight:
“We’ve all got his back. We all wanted to go out there and play hard for him and we did.”
On the differences of not having Alexander on the court:
“We miss his shot blocking and his physical presence.”
On being aggressive recently:
“I’ve just taken it upon myself. I’m just believing in myself, that’s the main thing.”
On where his bounce and athleticism has come from in his recent performances:
“It’s in my head, just thinking to myself that I can do it and that’s what I have been doing. I visualize doing myself doing it and go out and doing it.”
Kansas freshman forward Kelly Oubre, Jr.
On Perry Ellis’ performance:
“Tonight he was aggressive, he’s been aggressive for the past couple games and we needed him to be that way going into March because he’s our best player right now. We give him all our confidence and we stand by him 100 percent.”
On getting to the free throw line:
“Attacking their big bodies was definitely key in the game. They have a lot of great shot blockers, so we just went to their chest. Being able to find other ways to score rather than the outside jumper was definitely a big factor tonight in the game.”
POSTGAME QUOTES TEXAS
Texas head coach Rick Barnes
On his team’s late game execution:
“We had a chance to tie the game. I’m disappointed for our guys. They deserved some better fate, but it didn’t happen.”
On the officials of the game:
“I don’t want to make this game about that, but if you want to get into a discussion about officials, we can do that for a long time. Those guys work as hard as they can, there is no question about it, they work hard. After every game, coaches aren’t going to be happy with it. When you’ve struggled like we have and you’re fighting to try and get things turned around, you do feel like everything is against you. The fact is, there is no doubt our guys came in with an attitude and they believed truly they could win this game. We are not going to play perfect, we didn’t have to play perfect. We can take a lot of plays and say this, that, or whatever, but when you look at the numbers, it was a pretty even game.”
On the different game plans from the first time they played in Austin and today:
“I thought we did a lot of things differently, in terms of defending. They have some guys on the floor that can shoot the ball. People are going to go at them and that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to drive it and get into the heart of their defense, but I thought our man-and-ball defense was much better, other than the first half, where we missed a few coverages on those two dunks.”
On the difficulties of maintaining Perry Ellis:
“Well he’s a junior, and a good player. People don’t realize what that is. He does some good things, and I thought (Prince) Ibeh did a good job and I think Perry (Ellis) would tell you that too. His tempo on offense, I think he has really simplified a lot of things and Bill (Self) has done a great job with him. The fact that he’s been around and played a lot of games, you have to be impressed with the way that he has improved. But I think being a junior, and playing in a lot of big games and playing a lot of big minutes, you would expect that from him.”
Texas junior guard Demarcus Holland
On what they need to do going forward to get a win:
“Stick with it; don’t hang our heads after this and know that anything is possible if we continue to believe that we can win. We’ve had some close, tough losses as of late but we still trust the system and we have everyone playing, we’ve gotten Prince (Ibeh) in the rotation bringing energy for us. I’m still excited to finish the season, we are still excited to play our way into the tournament and I’m excited for our last two home games. We still have a chance to play some good basketball.”
On if there is one specific play that sticks out in his mind:
“No, I just think it was an up-and-down game, we were scoring back and forth. We were trying to get stops. We had a lot of shots and some of our bad shots we got back and laid them in. It was an up-tempo game and all we could do was go to the basket aggressively and sometimes we weren’t able to get that foul call but you have to continue to play through it and know that you tried as hard as you could and fought. I don’t think anybody has any regrets after this game; sometimes the ball just bounces that way.”
On the aggressiveness that they (Texas) played with today and if that was part of the game plan coming in:
“We wanted to come in the game and kind of speed them up a little bit. When you come in somebody else’s place, especially a place like this, their fans are great so you don’t want to let them be the aggressor, you want to come in and throw the first punch and keep throwing punches and never get back on your heels. That was the whole thing Coach (Rick) Barnes emphasized, staying in attack mode on offense and defense. I think we did that tonight for the most part. Like I said, it was a few plays here and there. You can’t go back and get it so you take the ‘L’ and move on.”
On how they had a quickness advantage in the back court and how they were able to use it:
“When we got a rebound we tell Isaiah (Taylor) to push the ball and me and Kendal (Yancy) are going to get out and run the wing as fast as we could. Attack the paint; if they helped, we would kick it out and shoot open shots.”
On the rim protection with Myles (Turner) and Prince (Ibeh):
“I think it was great. Prince (Ibeh) hasn’t been playing that much as of late, but he played a lot this game a brought a lot of energy to us on the offensive end. When he blocks shots like that, he fuels us and gives us adrenaline and when we get on the offensive end we get that much more aggressive. We feel like we owe him one.”
On if he feels like they are playing better right now:
“I think you could look at this game and say we are playing like we were earlier in the year, just being aggressive and not getting stagnate. We didn’t get stagnate tonight and I think that was the biggest difference over the past couple weeks.”
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