NCAA Tournament: Kansas Season Ends With WSU, 78-65
OMAHA, Neb. — In the end, the Shockers simply didn’t miss. No. 2 Kansas got its 17 points from Perry Ellis in the ultra-hyped matchup against his hometown team and even got an additional 17 off the bench from Devonte’ Graham. Yet, No. 7 seed Wichita State had every answer – the biggest being a 60 percent second-half shooting performance, to end the Jayhawks’ season in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon inside CenturyLink Center Omaha.
More than 22 years spanned the distance between meetings for Kansas (27-9, 13-5 Big 12) and Wichita State (30-4, 17-1 MVC), adding to an already amped atmosphere. For the second-straight game, KU was squaring off against a conference champion after facing New Mexico State on Friday. It also marked consecutive efforts against a highly-experienced roster.
Freshman Devonte’ Graham had a career-best
three threes and five steals.Every Shocker, with the exception of junior point guard Fred VanVleet, in the starting lineup on Sunday had four years of collegiate basketball to their credit. It showed. What the team lacked in depth and size, it made up for with veteran gamesmanship. Every one of them scored in double figures, led by a game-high 19 points from senior guard Tekele Cotton. VanVleet followed with 17 points, redshirt juniors Ron Baker and Evan Wessel each tallied 12 and senior Darius Carter posted 10 points.
Together, the veteran crew scored all but eight of WSU’s 78 points and helped the Shockers hit 16 of their 27 attempts from the floor in the final 20 minutes (25-for-51). Thus, turning a physical, but close, first half into a WSU-dominated second period. KU outdid WSU on the glass (38-32) and at the free throw line, but couldn’t match the Shockers’ hot hand. KU finished the game shooting 35.1 percent (20-for-57) for the game, its lowest performance since the Temple game (32.1 percent).
Ellis posted his NCAA Tournament-best total with 17 points, including a 9-for-10 mark at the free throw line. All but six of those points came after a jarring blow to the nose, an elbow late in the first half that sent him to the lockerroom bloodied before returning with a packed nose. He and sophomore forward Landen Lucas led the rebound effort with eight and 10, respectively.
Playing in his first NCAA Tournament, Graham tied his career-high with 29 minutes. He used the time to chalk up 17 points, which included a career-best three three-pointers. He led the Jayhawks with three assists and five steals – the most by a Jayhawk since Andrew Wiggins a year ago at West Virginia. His mentor, sophomore point guard Frank Mason III, was the only other Jayhawk in double figures with 16. Mason, too, hit three threes but was plagued with five turnovers.
By the first media timeout, Kansas’ foul calls quadrupled Wichita State’s made baskets (4-to-1) – setting the stage for the knock-down, drag-out as predicted. Eight minutes in, Wichita State already benefitted from the bonus.
Scoring was labored. Foul calls took its toll on the Jayhawk defensive aggression, while the Shocker defenders forced turnovers by clogging the lane. Both Ellis and junior forward Jamari Traylor responded with jump shots, giving Kansas the slight edge at the midway mark, 14-12.
Moments later, Mason added to it. His second trey of the game pushed KU’s lead to five as the Shockers struggled through a 1-for-6 shooting slump coupled with a stretch of four turnovers in three minutes. In its second-round victory against Indiana, WSU set a program record in NCAA Tournament play with just seven turnovers. On Sunday, the Shockers tied that number by the end of the first half.
Not 90 seconds after Ellis left the floor with a bloody nose, Wessel drained a three-pointer to cut an eight-point Kansas lead to five, 24-19. Starting the run that Kansas would never recover. A three from Baker capped a 7-0 run to cut KU’s lead to one and prompt a timeout. Out of the pause, Ellis chipped in a pair of free throws, but a field goal was the real need. The Jayhawks missed seven-straight as halftime neared, and Wichita State had clearly broken out of its shooting lull. A three-point play from Cotton and an actual three by VanVleet boosted the Shockers in front at the break, 29-26.
Mason hit a layup out of the gate, snapping the 13-2 run in which the Shockers ended the first half. Five-straight points from Cotton in response and another three from Wessel, however, put WSU right back into a 10-2 scoring spree. Self signaled for the timeout, but it did not ignite the intended spark. Back-to-back turnovers resulted in consecutive layups for VanVleet and Baker, pushing the Shocker lead to double-figures, 41-30.
With 15 minutes to play, three fouls on Mason and a double-digit deficit – the Jayhawks had no choice. Play or go home.
Graham swiped a pass and took it down the floor to the hoop, getting fouled in the process. He made them both to get the lead under 10 – but Wichita State swung hard. A three from Wessel, another from Cotton. Yet, Ellis went hard to the basket, drew fouls and made them count. He nailed six in a row to prevent the Shockers’ hot hand from breaking it open. But Wessel responded his fourth three-pointer of the game to shove the Jayhawks down, 54-40.
Kansas pressed on. Graham and Mason both hitting crucial threes. Unfortunately, the three-point shootout favored the Shockers. Zach Brown connected on his first three – WSU’s 10th – of the game, wiping out their effort.
Wichita State simply didn’t miss. Consecutive possessions watched Cotton and Darius Carter each make layups, soaring the Shockers’ second-half shooting percentage to 62 percent – and the lead to 69-57.
With 2:40 to play, the floor general was whistled for his fifth. If a Kansas comeback was in the cards, the Jayhawks would have to do it without Mason. It wasn’t. KU’s season ended at the final buzzer, 78-65.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (36/39), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (36/71), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (27/27), So. F Landen Lucas (14/14), Jr. F Perry Ellis (34/71)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 12-3
- Ended Kansas’ season at 27-9.
- Made Kansas 21-10 in second games played in the NCAA Tournament, including an 7-3 record in the round of 32 for head coach Bill Self.
- Snapped the Jayhawks’ win streak against the Shockers at five games, narrowing the advantage in the all-time series with Wichita State to 12-3.
- Made Kansas to 97-43 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- Marked KU’s first NCAA Tournament loss in Omaha. Combined with the 2008 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments, KU is now 5-1 in the city.
- Made Self 352-78 while at Kansas, 37-16 in the NCAA Tournament (23-6 while at KU) and 559-183 overall.
- Made KU 2,153-829 all-time.
- Kansas’ meeting with Wichita State was the first between the programs in more than 22 years. The last time the two squared off was Jan. 6, 1993. Only three current Jayhawks were alive at that time: junior Jamari Traylor, redshirt junior F Hunter Mickelson and senior Christian Garrett.
- Though Sunday was the 15th all-time meeting between the programs, Kansas’ victory was the first against Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament. The only other NCAA Tournament meeting between the two was a dramatic 66-65 WSU win in the NCAA Midwest Regional on March 20, 1981.
- KU won its previous 12 games against Wichita State by an average margin of 23.9 points per game. Sunday’s 13-point margin of defeat was KU’s biggest in the series.
- WSU also marked the first No. 7 seed that KU has faced in the NCAA Tournament since the 1993 season when Kansas defeated BYU (90-76) in Chicago on March 20, 1993.
- Kansas shot 35.1 percent (20-for-57), its lowest since shooting 32.1 (18-for-56) at Temple (12/22/14).
- Wichita State set a program NCAA Tournament record in its first game with just seven turnovers. That was the 18th time this season the Shockers had committed single-digit turnovers. On Sunday, WSU committed seven by halftime and 12 for the game.
- Free throws by freshman G Devonte’ Graham handed KU its biggest lead of the half (24-16). Wichita State responded with a 13-2 run to end the first period and take a 29-26 lead to halftime.
- That’s the 14th time Kansas has trailed at halftime this season. The Jayhawks finished the year 7-7 in such contests.
- With the 38-32 rebound advantage, the Jayhawks finished the year 20-3 when outrebounding opponents in 2014-15.
- On Friday, sophomore G Frank Mason III’s 17 points tied the most by a current Jayhawk in the NCAA Tournament (17 by Jamari Traylor vs. Eastern Kentucky, 3/21/14). On Sunday, junior F Perry Ellis and freshman G Devonte’ Graham tied that with 17 points apiece.
- Ellis’ 17 points moved him to 37th on KU’s all-time career scoring list (1,157). He passed former KU stars Billy Thomas (1,152) and Rick Suttle (1,156). His eight rebounds on Sunday gives him 612 for his career, passing Richard Scott (607), Pierre Russell (607) and tying Darnell Jackson (612) for 24th all-time at Kansas.
- Ellis squared off against longtime Wichita Heights HS teammate Evan Wessel. He and Wessel won three Kansas Class 6A State Championships together in high school. On opposite sides on Sunday, Wessel scored 12 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting with nine rebounds.
- Ellis took an elbow to the face in the first half, which sent him to the lockerroom with a bloody nose. He returned before halftime, but played with a cotton-packed nose for the rest of the half. Toughing it out, Ellis scored 11 of his 17 points after the blow.
- Freshman G Devonte’ Graham tied his career-high with 29 points and posted 17 points, tying him for the team-high. His three three-pointers were a career-high as were his five steals.
- Graham’s five steals were the most by a Jayhawk since Andrew Wiggins also swiped five at West Virginia (3/8/14).
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III fouled out for the first time in his career after scoring 16 points. In KU’s 36 games this season, Mason tallied double-digit points 30 times.
- Freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., also fouled out in the final minutes, marking the second time this season that two players fouled out in a game.
- Sophomore F Landen Lucas pulled down nine rebounds in the first half alone, the most by a Jayhawk by halftime since Ellis posted a double-double in the first half against Kansas State (13 points, 10 rebounds) on Jan. 31.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.