No. 2/3 Kansas Breaks Away Against Iona, 86-66

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Paced by a perfect performance from rookie big man Joel Embiid, No. 2/3 Kansas broke loose from Iona for a 20-point win inside Allen Fieldhouse Tuesday night, 86-66.

Meeting for the first time since 1988, Kansas (3-0) recorded its 65th-consecutive non-conference victory, but had its hands full with an Iona (1-2) squad that had answers for every Jayhawk bucket for the majority of Tuesday night’s contest. For the game’s first 31 minutes, the Gaels kept the Jayhawks within reach. But with nine minutes on the clock, Kansas shut the door. Upping its 65-56 advantage in a hurry, KU put together a 9-0 run over a three-minute window, and wrapped up those nine minutes on a 21-10 run.

Embiid led the charge, chalking up eight points in the first half and eight more in the second on a flawless 7-for-7 night from the floor. The 7-foot center recorded KU’s first double-double of the year with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis turned in another brilliant effort, posting 20-plus points for the second-straight game. He was nearly as efficient as his post partner, shooting 9-for-11 on his way to a team-high 21 points.

Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe did the majority of the distributing, racking up 10 assists in the win. Freshmen guards Andrew Wiggins and Frank Mason rounded out the Jayhawk leaders with 13 and nine points, respectively.

While Iona won the war from behind the arc, knocking down 10 three-pointers to KU’s four, Kansas more than doubled the Gaels’ effort in the paint, 52-24, to offset. The Jayhawks were also aided by an overpowering 57 percent shooting percentage as a unit (33-for-58).

Sophomore guard A.J. English and Preseason All-MAAC First Team selection Sean Armand led the Iona offense, contributing 21 and 14 points apiece. Their team ended the evening shooting 39 percent (22-for-57).

An overthrown pass followed a three-pointer from Armand prompted a quick timeout from the Kansas bench after falling behind 11-9. Things took another turn when Armand converted a Jayhawk turnover into a three from the top of the key, furthering the KU deficit, 16-11. This time a lineup change, rather than a timeout, ensued. With all but one starter on the bench, Kansas found a spark.

Sophomore forward Jamari Traylor kicked it off with a block on the Gaels’ end of the floor, giving the offense room to close the gap. Squared up in the corner, sophomore Andrew White III nailed a three pointer. The next trip down the floor, Embiid wiggled around the defense for a layup to tie the score, 16-16.

Iona didn’t blink, charging right back with a 5-0 run of its own, including the team’s third three in the first 10 minutes, and KU again lagged behind. Ellis carried the Jayhawks, bringing his first-half point total to nine with a layup that cut the Iona lead to two, 23-21. Two made free throws from Wiggins retied the score with seven minutes remaining in the frame.

While Kansas was shooting at a 57-percent rate by the final media timeout, the Gaels always had a response. When freshman guard Conner Frankamp knocked down a three, Iona’s Armand hit a floater. When Tharpe pulled up for a jumper in the lane, English kept Iona right there with a three. Finally back-to-back hook shots for Embiid opened up a four-point KU lead. Even a slick behind his head layup from Embiid was quickly overshadowed by two more Iona three-pointers.

Looking to finally break away, Ellis and Selden scored the last five points of the half to take a 41-36 edge into halftime.

Armed with a slight lead, Tharpe and the Jayhawks turned up the excitement out of the break, hitting Wiggins and Embiid for alley-oop dunks, to the delight of the sold-out Fieldhouse. Iona was relentless, hitting two more treys to cut the Kansas lead back down to two, but the Jayhawks had found their stride. When Wiggins intercepted an outlet pass and dished it under the basket to Ellis, the sophomore forward completed a textbook up-and-under, pushing KU to its first double-digit lead of the evening, 58-47. This time it was Iona that was forced to blow the whistle.

Matching each other at a 50-percent shooting stride by the second half’s second media timeout, Kansas hung on to a 61-54 lead with 11:22 on the clock. Iona maintained pace with shooting percentage, but couldn’t keep up with the Jayhawks in transition. Embiid threw a perfect outlet to Mason, who found Ellis, who found the basket – and Kansas jumped out to its largest lead of the night, 69-56.

Point guard to point guard, Tharpe found Mason for an alley-oop dunk to mark the beginning of the end for Iona with just over six minutes to play. Kansas went on to outscore the Gaels 21-7 in the final nine minutes until one last three-pointer from the visitors brought the game to its final score, 86-66.

No. 2/3 Kansas will open the Battle 4 Atlantis when it plays host to Towson on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Jayhawk TV/ESPN3. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.

Game Notes
Series Information
Kansas won its third-straight over Iona and improved to 3-1 in the all-time series. It was the first meeting between the two programs since 1988.

Kansas Starters (Career/Season): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (2/2), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (3/3), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (3/3), So. Perry Ellis (3/6), Sr. Tarik Black (3/63)

Attendance: 16,300

The Kansas Win…
-Made Kansas 3-0 for the seventh time in the Bill Self era.
-Gave Kansas its 65th-straight win against a non-conference opponent in Allen Fieldhouse.
-Made Kansas 3-1 all-time against Iona.
-Improved Kansas to 701-108 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including a 163-8 record with Self as head coach.
-Moved Self’s record to 303-59 at Kansas and 510-164 overall.
-Improved Kansas to 2,104-812 all-time.

Team Notes
-Kansas trailed 23-19 with a little more than eight minutes to play in the first half, but made six-consecutive shots in a back-and-forth rally to flip the margin in its favor. Four-different Jayhawks scored during the hot streak, including Perry Ellis, Conner Frankamp, Naadir Tharpe and Joel Embiid, who drained three in a row to cap the surge. Kansas closed the half by sinking 9-of-11 shot attempts (81.8 percent) after shooting 8-for-18 (44.4 percent) in the game’s first 12 minutes.
-Kansas led 41-36 at the break and improved to 2-0 when leading after the game’s first 20 minutes this season.
-The 36 points allowed in the first half marked the third-consecutive game that the Jayhawks have allowed 35 points or more by halftime, the first such three-game streak since allowing 35+ in the opening half against Arizona, UCLA and Memphis in games 6-8 during the 2011 season. Despite the inflated total, Kansas won all three games, as it did to start this season.
-KU finally broke free for a double-digit lead for good with nine minutes on the clock. Up 65-56, the Jayhawks broke out for a 9-0 run over the next three minutes. From there, KU was off and running, ending the night on a 21-10 run.

Individual Notes
-Sophomore F Perry Ellis secured his third-straight, double-digit scoring effort in the first half when he poured in 13 on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. Ellis went on to score 21 in the game. It was the 10th time in the Wichita native’s career that he’s scored 10 or more and third career game with 20 or more. Ellis recorded back-to-back 20-point efforts after scoring a career-best 24 against Duke a week ago.
-Ellis’ 9-for-11 shooting performance on Tuesday pushed his season total to 72.4 percent. He’s missed only eight times this year (21-for-29).
-Freshman C Joel Embiid drained all seven shot attempts to finish the game perfect from the field. It was the most field goals in a game without a miss since Kenny Gregory poured in all eight of his attempts against Texas Tech on Feb. 5, 2000. The mark was two shy of Mark Randall’s school-record nine field goals without a miss against Rider, Dec. 15, 1990. 
-Embiid finished the game with 16 points and snagged 13 rebounds in the contest to become the first Jayhawk to record a double-double this season. It was the most rebounds by a freshman since Markieff Morris grabbed 15 boards against UMKC on Nov. 16, 2008. 
-Freshman G Andrew Wiggins also reached double figures with 13 points, giving him three straight double-digit efforts to begin his career.
-Junior G Naadir Tharpe reached double-digit assists for just the second time in his career and was two shy of his career-mark with 10 assists.
-Tharpe likes playing at home evidently, including the exhibition season, the junior point guard has dished out 25 assists and committed just one turnover on James Naismith court in 2013.

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
On playing a good team and dominating late:
“We didn’t come ready to play in the first half at all, but came out much better the second half. If you don’t play with great energy, it is hard to play good defense. We did some good things, especially by Perry (Ellis) and Joel (Embiid).”

On Joel’s performance with his dad in attendance:
“That is pretty cool that his dad is here from Cameroon. I think he got in (from the airport) at 5 p.m., and came straight to the game. He will be here for the game Friday (against Towson), and I think that was probably the first basketball game he has ever seen live, unless he saw Joel play in high school last year. That was pretty cool. We did some pretty good things, but the lack of energy by some of our key players kind of set the tone for everything. The second half, Frank (Mason) got in there and did some good things, and I thought Perry and Joel kind of carried us.”

On Perry Ellis’ performance:
Perry is playing well. The way they (Iona) play defense, they can’t foul because they don’t have a lot of depth. All we had to do is drive it at them and we pretty much got what we wanted, as evidenced by us shooting 57% from the floor. We did some good things, and certainly I just think we can get a lot better play. It is going to be a work in progress for a while because we are so young and we can’t figure it out. You see how mature teams handle certain situations, and we just don’t handle it quite as well as some other teams and that is what concerns me. That is how teams sneak up on you when they are not supposed to. When we are all turned up and play the way we are supposed to, we can play with anybody. We have a ways to go, but we did do some good things the second half.

On playing Towson next:
Who would have thought they would be this good when we scheduled this game two years ago? They are really good. They can score. They beat Temple the other night. Next to Duke, this will be the best team we have played, so we have to come with a different, more aggressive mindset. How many Division I basketball games this year have been played where neither team got to the bonus in the first half? How can you not get to the bonus if you are trying to guard? I am ok with us fouling if we are trying to guard. We just don’t have that aggressive mindset. It is not the rules that are making us this way, we just have to do a better job of teaching the team to play aggressive.”

Kansas junior forward Perry Ellis
On if his skill set is ideal to attack a zone:
“Yeah, definitely. We work on that every day in practice. I try to attack every time we do that. It just comes with practicing and practicing and it translates into the games.”
On Coach Self’s message at halftime:
“The key was just defense. (It was) just the little things that we weren’t doing and we still have to work on that. That’s what we have to get better on. We have to be more aggressive defensively.”
Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid
On if he knew his dad would be in attendance:
“Yes, he told me. I don’t think that I played well because he was there, I just feel more confident and Coach always gives me his trust and it’s making me more confident.”
On if he has a hard time guarding Perry Ellis in practice:
“Yes, definitely. We can’t stop him, he has excellent footwork. You would think (sometimes) he would go off of his left shoulder, but then he will go off of his right shoulder. He’s very hard to guard.”
Kansas freshman guard Frank Mason
On if he was excited about his dunk:
“I was excited, but I had to get back on defense. It’s something that I knew I could do. So I wasn’t that excited; I was just worried about (going back on defense) and getting another stop.”
On what Coach tells them to do when they see a zone:
“The key to (attacking) zone defenses is getting the ball to the middle so you can break the defense down. Just keep moving the ball so it doesn’t stay in one spot.”

Iona Head Coach Coach Tim Cluess
On his thoughts at halftime:
“We were worried about them establishing the inside. We had a couple of guys in foul trouble and we struggled in our first couple possessions of the second half. We gave up too many driving lanes which led to them just throwing up lobs and when that happens we can’t compete with that size. We have to shoot the ball really well and we didn’t make the kind of shots we need to make in the second half to stay in it.”
On Sean Armand making headlines about expecting to come to Kansas and win:
“Sean said every game we go into, we go in to win and this one isn’t going to be any different. We respect Kansas and know how good they are, but if we were here to lose, we shouldn’t be playing the game.”
On his impressions of Joel Embiid:
“He was a monster in there. He was really, really impressive and we didn’t have the bodies to lean on that we would of liked to. We defensively lost him. We paid too much attention to the guys on the perimeter. The kid is an NBA player and has a bright future ahead of him.”

Iona sophomore guard A.J. English
On the effect of the lob passes to alley-oops:
“It gave them a lot of momentum. Every lob they caught the crowd went crazy. You can just tell that the lobs are what the crowd is waiting for.”
How they tried to respond to the lob:
“Watching Kansas, that’s what they do. So we understand we can’t stop all of them but try and keep it to a minimum. We needed to not necessarily come back with a lob but come back with a score to try and stop their momentum and keep it close.”
On the Jayhawks as a team:
“I felt like the whole team was great. I know they give a lot to the freshmen but their entire team is great not just one person.”