No. 11/12 Kansas Wins War of Rallies to Top Tennessee, 82-67
ORLANDO — His 10th rebound was crucial. The board that put Perry Ellis into double-double status resulted in points for freshman Cliff Alexander, a three-point play that started the scoring run that finally put the game out of reach. The Jayhawks withstood the constant Volunteer rallies to win in the semifinals of the Orlando Classic, 82-67, inside the HP Field House Friday.
The Kansas (4-1) and Tennessee (2-2) matchup was a tale of scoring run after scoring run. Just when the Jayhawks thought they had pulled away, the Vols would come up with a wild rally to get back in it. Just when Tennessee thought it had regained the lead, the Jayhawks would erupt for a string of crucial baskets. Ultimately, the Jayhawks had the depth and resilience needed to put it away in the final minutes.
The Jayhawks get a day away from competition and take on the winner of Michigan State vs. Marquette on Sunday, Nov. 30, at noon CT.
Ellis stood above the rest with a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds. He nearly had a double-double in the second half, putting up 13 points and eight rebounds in the final frame to push Kansas to outlast the Volunteers. Alexander also shined in the spotlight. He checked in off the bench for 16 points off 5-of-6 shooting. Sophomore guard Frank Mason III had a particular alley-oop connection with Alexander, but he spread the ball around evenly en route to a season-best seven assists. He also finished with 11 points and second behind Ellis in rebounds with six, a new career-high, helping the Jayhawk double-up the Vols on the glass, 44-22.
Sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr. made his 40th-consecutive start and scored 12 points, nine of which came in the second half. For the afternoon, Kansas went 24-for-49 (49 percent) from the floor with a season-best 76.5 percent efficiency from the free-throw line, led by Ellis’ 11-of-12. Additionally, KU’s 22+ rebound margin was its best since out-rebounding Eastern Kentucky by 24 in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee’s guards led the offense on the opposing side. Senior guard Josh Richardson, the Vols’ one returning starter from a year ago, set the pace with 16 points. Fellow guards Kevin Punter and Detrick Mostrella followed suit with 14 and 13 points, respectively, but no one tallied more than two assists.
The three-point shooting that ignited the Jayhawk offense against Rhode Island in Thursday’s game got them rolling again on Friday. Mason drained the first of the game less than 20 seconds in, and Ellis hit another shortly thereafter. Nothing got the crowd going, however, quite like the two-handed slam that’s quickly becoming a patented Alexander move. Together, they shot Kansas out to a 14-7 lead, but a Tennesse timeout reset the Vols. They fired off back-to-back threes out of the pause to put a halt to KU’s hot start.
In fact, Tennessee flipped the table when another three capped a 10-1 Volunteer run – the first of what became multiple scoring runs on the afternoon – and UT took a 17-15 lead. Back-and-forth scoring settled in temporarily until free throws and Selden’s first three spotted the Jayhawks seven-straight points to reopen the lead. When Alexander called for the ball to setup another of his alley-oop specials and Brannen Greene nailed a three from the corner, KU suddenly jumped out to its largest lead of the half, 32-22.
Predictably, the wild scoring runs started again. Unpredictably, it was a flagrant-one foul rather than a timeout that sparked the Volunteers.
Down 35-25, Tennessee’s Punter took off down the floor for a fastbreak layup, but the ensuing foul on Selden was ruled flagrant. Punter converted on both of the free throws he was awarded and his team also got the ball back. The Vols took advantage with another bucket, giving them six points in less than 30 seconds. Immediately answering, freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk knocked down a three and Devonte’ Graham dunked in transition before halftime interrupted the frantic pace.
Kansas came out of the break leading 40-33 and looking to keep the scoring frenzy on its own side. Mason hit Alexander for back-to-back alley oops, powering KU to its largest lead of the game, 53-40.
The hope of keeping it one-sided was short-lived.
After Alexander put on his show with consecutive alley-oops, Kansas collectively turned the ball over six times without a bucket. Tennessee made them count. Two-straight threes by Mostrella cut the KU lead to three and the Vols made it worse with a steal and a fastbreak layup. In three minutes, Tennessee put together a 13-1 run to cut what once was the largest deficit of the game (53-40) to a single-digit.
Now desperate for a bucket, Mason broke the five-minute field goal drought with a crucial three-pointer. Greene came up big with another from the wing, providing the critical points the Jayhawks were waiting for. The momentum was clearly with Tennessee, however, as the Vols stripped the ball from KU’s end to add to the lopsided points-off-turnover count. A foul on Greene allowed UT’s Armani Moore to tie the score with free throws.
Knotted at 62-62 with 6:49 to play, Kansas embarked on what finally played out to be the last scoring run of the game. Taking a page out of Tennessee’s playbook, Mason stripped the ball on the Vols’ end of the floor and went coast-to-coast where Alexander was waiting. Fighting off defenders for the offensive rebound, Alexander came away with the three-point play that finally gave Kansas a lead it would keep. Just under three-minutes remained when Ellis spinned to the basket for a layup, the three-point play, his first 20-point game of the season and the 10-point Jayhawk lead, 74-64.
By game’s end, KU finished on a 20-5 run to make the final score deceiving of the back-and-forth battle it was. Regardless, the Jayhawks walked away with an 82-67 win and a trip to the Orlando Classic championship game.
Kansas will face either Marquette or Michigan State on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 12 p.m. CT. KU will return to Allen Fieldhouse to play No. 8/7 Florida on Friday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. (Central) in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The KU-UF game will be televised on ESPN.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (5/8), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (5/40), Fr. G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (3/3), Jr. F Perry Ellis (5/42), So. F Landen Lucas (3/3)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 2-1
ATTENDANCE: 4,383 (HP Field House capacity: 5,000)
- Made the Jayhawks 4-1 for the 10th time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at Kansas.
- Improved Kansas to 2-1 in the all-time series against Tennessee.
- Bettered Kansas’ record to 2-1 in neutral site games this season.
- Improved Self to 3-1 against Tennessee (2-1 while at KU), 329-70 at Kansas and 536-175 overall.
- Pushed KU’s in-season tournament record to 34-6 under Self.
- Made KU’s all-time record 2,130-823.
- A three-pointer off the hands of sophomore G Frank Mason marked KU’s initial basket of the game – the first time this season that KU’s first points have come from behind the arc. That happened only five times a year ago.
- The first half seemed to be on big scoring run after another. Kansas got out to a 14-7 start before Tennessee rolled out a 10-1 scoring run. Now trailing, 17-15, Kansas went on a 17-5 spree to end up with a 10-point lead. All of this craziness took only eight minutes.
- Scoring runs proved even more costly in the second half as Tennessee erased a 53-40 deficit with a 13-1 scoring run in a span that lasted just over three minutes. Yet, Kansas got the last word, ending the game on a 20-5 run in the final 6:49 of the game.
- KU pulled down 44 rebounds to UT’s 22. KU’s 22+ rebound margin was its best since out-rebounding Eastern Kentucky by 24 in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
- The Jayhawks posted season-highs in free throws made (26), free-throw percentage (76.5) and rebounds (44), but recorded fewer steals than their opponent for the first time this season (7-3).
- Kansas committed just five turnovers in the first half, but ended the game tied for the season-high with 16.
- After freshman F Cliff Alexander put on his show with consecutive alley-oops in the second half, Kansas collectively turned the ball over six times without a bucket. Sophomore G Frank Mason finally broke the five-minute drought with a three-pointer.
- For the third-straight game, junior F Perry Ellis was the first player on the floor to double-figures. He tallied 11 in the first half, but went on to record his eighth double-double of his career and the second of the season with a 24 points and 13 rebounds, both of which led all players and were his best marks of the season.
- With 17, 17 and 24 points in his last three games, Ellis has the first three-game streak of 15+ points in his career.
- Freshman F Cliff Alexander had fun with the alley-oop. He had four dunks for the afternoon – three of which came via the lob. He finished with a career-high 16 points.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III posted 11 points, tied his career-high with seven assists and set a new career high with six rebounds. His previous best was five against Rider (11/24). His 11 points marked his 10th career game in double-figures.
- Sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr. inadvertently provided a spark to Tennessee when he was whistled for a flagrant foul in the first half. The Vols rattled off a 13-1 run in response. Selden certainly made up for it with nine points in the second half to finish with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds.
- Sophomore F Landen Lucas made his third-consecutive start, which he used to tie his career-high with five rebounds.
- Sophomore G Brannen Greene is on a three-game streak with multiple three-pointers.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.