Kansas Claims First Exhibition Win for USA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Shorter shot clock and longer three-point range – but basketball is basketball. Frank Mason III’s 28-point performance served as the perfect reminder that the long wait between seasons is over. Kansas began its dual role as the USA National Team in a 91-83 exhibition victory against Team Canada Tuesday night inside Sprint Center.
In April 2014, Kansas was selected to represent the United States in the 2015 World University Games (WUG). More than a year of planning later, the Jayhawks and a collection of Canada’s best university players met in Kansas City to finally get things underway. Both teams fielded a 12-man roster per WUG regulations, which paired 10 American-born Jayhawks with SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose to complete the USA roster. Both teams used the exhibition matchup to prepare for the official international competition in Gwangju, Korea, July 3-14.
While Canada brought along a full complement of veterans, the Jayhawks had their own. Mason led the charge. The Jayhawk point guard chalked up 17 points in the final frame alone to finish with 28 on the night, a career-high number had the game been official. His nine field goals (9-for-14) also would have marked a personal best, accompanying his 8-for-8 mark at the free throw line, six rebounds and five assists.
Perry Ellis was the first to double-digits and ended with 17 points in the win.
All-Big 12 senior-to-be Perry Ellis led all players at the half with 10 points and trailed Mason with 17 for the game. Fellow senior Jamari Traylor put up a double-double, unofficially the second of his career, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. His four blocks would have also marked a career-best. Wayne Selden, Jr. chimed in with 13 points, all of which were crucially timed in helping Kansas erase a 10-point deficit.
Canada saw four different players reach double digits, led by Chris McLaughlin’s 15. The visitors were dangerously efficient throughout the entire first half, heading to the lockerroom with the lead and a 47 percent shooting efficiency. Where the Jayhawks shot a rocky 1-for-9 from three-point range in the first half, Canada rolled off 5-of-11 from long range.
Armed with a live-game tutorial of the rule changes, head coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks shot 45.5 percent (15-for-33) in the second half and held Canada to 31.4 percent (11-for-35). From behind the arc, Kansas upped its makes to 44 percent and shut Canada down to a meager 2-for-10. On the glass, Kansas outdid the scrappy visitors (49-42) and did the same in the assists column (19-14).
Moore, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, runs the point at SMU, making his partnership with Mason a dynamic one. Both collected five assists apiece, while Selden led the floor with six dimes.
KU newcomers Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg, checked in for the first time just a minute apart in the first quarter. With the USA trailing, the rookie duo teamed up for a fastbreak layup to showcase Bragg’s ball handling and Vick’s finish around the rim. The Kansas crowd approved despite Canada’s 25-21 lead at the end of the quarter.
Canada’s advantage quickly picked up steam. Four-straight baskets, including a pair of three’s, stretched the visitors’ lead to double digits, 35-25. The Jayhawks labored to score. They missed eight of nine shots, fighting against blocks from Canada center Mikael Andrews.
Making up for lost time, the Jayhawks put together a 6-0 run in the final 45 seconds of the half. Landen Lucas started it with his first points of the game, joined by two free throws from Mason and a buzzer-beating layup from Vick. In the last minute before halftime, Kansas hacked an eight-point deficit to two. Canada took a 43-41 lead to halftime.
The USA squad used it to start the second half. Selden knocked down his first three-pointer of the game, then benefitted from a goal-tending call to give the Jayhawks its first lead since the 3:40 mark in the first quarter, 51-50. Kansas turned up the defensive pressure, cooling the Canadian shooters. They made just three of their first 10 shots to start the third quarter, breathing additional life into a KU team ready to reclaim control. Riding the momentum, Selden drilled another three to kick KU’s lead to its largest of the evening, 60-54.
Canada clawed back multiple times, but in the waning seconds of the third quarter Mason made a statement. Staring at his defender, Mason held his dribble, planned his attack and took off. He drew in the defense with a drive down the lane and kicked the ball out to Traylor. Traylor didn’t waste it, hitting the baseline jumper right before the horn.
U-S-A chants from the crowd added extra flair to the final period. Canada’s offense wouldn’t stall for long as a 5-0 run put the visitors back in front, 70-66. Mason loved it. He muscled his way to a three-point play and cashed in on another layup when Traylor rejected a shot at the other end. Until Ellis’ free throws with less than five minutes to play, all of KU’s fourth-quarter points came via Mason.
So when Canada reclaimed the lead in the final minutes – who else? Mason pulled up from way beyond the arc. Swish. Kansas up, 82-80.
KU never trailed again. Mason met and exceeded what would have been career-high scoring numbers. The crowd traded the U-S-A chant for the more familiar, less patriotic Rock Chalk variety to put the finishing touch on the 91-83 win.
- USA Starters: G Frank Mason III, G Wayne Selden, Jr., G Nic Moore (SMU), F Perry Ellis, F Hunter Mickelson
- Canada Starters: G Johnny Berhanemeskel, G Aaron Best, G Jahmal Jones, G Jordan Baker, F Chris McLaughlin
- If the game had been official, it would marked the first KU start for Mickelson.
- This marks the second time that a college team will compete in the World University Games. In 2007, the University of Northern Iowa represented the United States and finished ninth in Bangkok, Thailand.
- Mason’s 28 points would have easily beat his career best (21, 2x, last at Oklahoma, 3/7/15). His nine field goals also would’ve bested his best (8, 4x, last at TCU, 1/28/15).
- Lagerald Vick was the first KU newcomer to come in off the bench, checking in at the 5:30 mark in the first quarter. Incoming McDonald’s All-American Carlton Bragg made his first appearance just a minute later (4:27). Both finished with four points
- In the first 12 minutes of the game, all 12 Jayhawks had checked in. Evan Manning and Tyler Self appeared in the first two minutes of the second quarter.
- In his usual role, Perry Ellis was the first on the floor to double digits. He had 10 points by halftime and 17 on the evening. If the numbers were official, it would’ve been his 56th career game in double figures.
- Jamari Traylor score 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, which would have been his first double-double since the 2014 NCAA Tournament vs. Eastern Kentucky. His four blocks would have surpassed his previous career-high (3, 7x, last vs. TCU, 3/12/15).
POSTGAME QUOTES KANSAS/USA
Head Coach Bill Self
On Frank Mason III’s performance in the fourth quarter:
“He was great, that was a fun game. The guys were playing out there and competing; they are older and good and can shoot it. They are definitely much more physical than our young guys, you can certainly tell what a difference a year or two in the weight room makes. I thought Frank was great, I thought Jamari (Traylor) was great, but Frank ran the show. It was probably as good as Frank has played since he’s been at Kansas.”
On having a team with experience:
“We haven’t really gone over too much at all, but when we have Devonte’ (Graham), Devonte is beyond his years. We will be a hard team to deal with, I think, with Devonte’ and Frank both out there to take off the pressure. Wayne (Selden, Jr.) made some unbelievably athletic plays out there; that save he made to Frank for the three (pointer) was probably as big of play as there was in the game. It’s nice having a fifth-year senior, a fourth-year senior and two three-year juniors out there. We haven’t had that since 2012 and that turned out ok.”
On adjusting to international rules:
“I thought we actually did ok with that. The eight-second call across half court, that really wasn’t Frank, that was as much Nic (Moore) not getting rid of it, but we will do better at that. We haven’t scrimmaged or had any officials yet; I told them before the game the rules differences. I shouldn’t expect them to know all the differences if I don’t know them and I certainly didn’t. I had to ask if I could call time out or sub, but we will get better at that. We hadn’t talked about how we were going to guard ball screens, we have just been out there playing and working on offense. This team has room to improve quite a bit, but it was fun out there. “
Guard Frank Mason III
On taking over the game in the fourth quarter:
“I just felt pretty confident. My teammates did a great job of screening and put me in a great position to score.”
On how it feels to have two seniors and Wayne Selden, Jr., a junior, on the court:
“We have a lot of experience and it carries (over to everyone on the team). Perry (Ellis) has been great, Jamari (Traylor) has also been great.”
On playing an emotional, hard-fought exhibition game tonight to start off Team USA’s World University Games’ slate:
“It is really to fun play a competitive and close game. Tonight we learned a lot and played a great team.”
Forward Perry Ellis
On the biggest challenge adapting to playing with the international rules:
“Just the shot clock. I just have to play a lot faster and get set (in the post) a lot quicker.”
On if the ball feels different, especially the ball size:
“It definitely feels different, but we are adjusting to it and shooting with it every day.”
On how it felt to hear the crowd chanting “U-S-A”:
“We are excited to do this (represent the United States of America at the World University Games next month). We just want to get better (every day) and go compete.”
On freshman Carlton Bragg, Jr.’s game:
“He got rid of it quick. I really like his game and he played a great game tonight. He is a very skilled player.”
Forward Jamari Traylor
On if Coach Self has asked the post players to work on getting the ball off the rim:
“Coach wants us to do it a little more in the games. I try to work on my timing of it in practice.”
On how being a senior changes his approach to the game and his confidence:
“I am a lot more comfortable out there. I want to get our other guys going. I was talking to Carlton (Bragg, Jr.) and Lagerald (Vick) the whole time during the game. It’s my role to help (the other) guys out when I can because having been here (for four years), I know what Coach (Self) expects. I am trying to be a vocal leader out there.”
On what it was like to play for Coach Self tonight compared to during a Big 12 Conference game during the regular season:
“He was loose. He was letting everybody know they should just go out there and play. Obviously, he wanted to win but he said everybody was going to play tonight. He knew the young guys were going to make mistakes, but (that was ok); he just wanted everybody to go out and play hard.”
POSTGAME QUOTES CANADA
Head Coach Barnaby Craddock
On the play of Kansas guard Frank Mason III:
“Twenty-eight points. He led their team the whole night and hit some big shots. I thought he was fantastic. He’s a challenge for us, we struggled to guard him correctly. He’s going to make Kansas fans pretty happy this upcoming season.”
On the atmosphere of Sprint Center:
“I heard it was about 8,000 or 9,000, but it felt like about 30,000 people. I can see why everyone says the Jayhawks have such great support. That’s a fantastic crowd. They’re loud, vocal; every basket that went in it was hard for our guys to stay focused and stay positive with the crowd that loud. It’s exciting to play in and it’s a great fan base that gives a lot of support and it makes basketball games like that be played the way they should be.”
On Kansas’ run to end the game:
“They’re a good team. They made some shots down the stretch and we missed. Credit (goes) to them, they played a good game and deserved the win. We have to learn how to execute a little bit better down the stretch.”
Guard Adika Peter-McNeilly
On the intensity of the exhibition game:
“It’s my first time representing the country so I’m going to try to represent my country and make them proud. I want to play hard and when I’m out there, it’s also a privilege so when I’m out there I’m trying to give 100 percent.”
On Team Canada’s familiarity with Kansas basketball:
“When Andrew Wiggins was playing they would televise every game so we were watching him. Growing up watching NCAA basketball you’d always see Kansas. It was exciting to hear that we were going to play Kansas because it’s one of the biggest schools for basketball in America.”
Forward Chris McLaughlin
On the intensity of the exhibition game:
“It’s a great opportunity to have a chance to bring our league and our own players down here to represent Canada and see where we compare. I think that’s what we took from tonight. We wanted to give it everything we’ve got and I think we did a good job.”
On the game making both teams better in the long run:
“This is a great opportunity to really take advantage of the atmosphere and the pressure that’s put on some of these teams. Heading over to Korea, I’m sure it’s going to be really similar to the circumstances that we had tonight. It’s a great way to start off our trip.”
USA and Canada will square off one more time before heading to the World University Games in Gwangju, Korea. The final Kansas City exhibition game is slated for Friday, June 26 at 7 p.m.
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