KU Frontcourt’s Second-Half Attack Fuels 78-53 Win Over UC Irvine

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior Perry Ellis led the charge with 14 points, 13 in the second half, as the frontcourt players of No. 2 Kansas accounted for 30 of the team’s 50 points over the final 20 minutes to claim a 78-53 win over UC Irvine Tuesday night inside Allen Fieldhouse. The victory marked the 10th-straight by the Jayhawks (11-1).

The stature of UC Irvine (10-5), with three players measuring in at 6-foot-10 or more, appeared to cause issues for the KU offense early on as the Jayhawk post players combined to score five points on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half. That issue was quickly erased in the second half, as the Jayhawks opened with a 9-0 run, including six points by Ellis and two more from senior forward Hunter Mickelson.

The Kansas run grew into a 16-2 edge and put the Jayhawks in control with a 44-28 lead with 15:54 left in the game. KU pushed the lead to 20 points after a pair of Landen Lucas dunks, 58-38, with 10:01 remaining. Lucas finished with eight points on 4-for-6 shooting and four rebounds.

The Anteaters cut the lead to 14 points twice, but a Mickelson jumper just inside the foul line lifted the KU advantage to 69-48 with 3:18 left. Mickelson scored six points on the night. The second-half attack by KU spread to the backcourt too, as the Jayhawks shot 14-for-25 in the final frame (56 percent) and forced 25 free throw attempts as opposed to just eight in the first half.

Along with his game-high 14 points, Ellis finished with nine boards, while Frank Mason III chipped in 13 points and added six assists. Brannen Greene scored 10 points, thanks to an 8-for-11 effort from the free throw line, and Wayne Selden Jr., posted eight points, seven rebounds and five assists.

In the first half, Kansas and UC Irvine traded runs throughout the period and both endured scoreless droughts of over four minutes. The Jayhawks stormed out to a 7-0 run with two-point baskets from Mason and Selden and a trey from Devonte’ Graham.

The KU lead was short-lived as the Anteaters countered with a 13-2 run to take a 13-9 advantage. The run included the first of two first-half three-pointers by UCI’s Ioannis Dimakopoulos, who entered the game shooting 1-for-8 from behind the arc for the season. Dimakopoulus finished the first half with a team-best 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting, including a perfect 2-for-2 on threes. He was held scoreless in the second half. Seven-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye was the high scorer for UCI with 12 points.

The Jayhawks responded with a 6-0 run highlighted by an alley-oop dunk from Mason to Lucas at the 10:19 mark. Not only did Lucas’ slam give KU the lead, 14-13, but it marked the first made basket by a Kansas post player.

UC Irvine matched its largest lead in the game, 26-22, after a 13-7 run with five points by Dimakopoulos. Graham sank his third three-point shot of the first half to start a 6-0 Jayhawk run to end the period and claim a 28-26 lead at the break. Graham finished with nine points.

The Jayhawks, winners of 11-straight Big 12 Conference regular-season championships, open league play Saturday, January 2 when Kansas hosts Baylor in a nationally-televised game on CBS at 3 p.m. CT.


Jr. G Frank Mason III (12/51)
So. G Devonte’ Graham (10/10)
Jr. G Wayne Selden Jr. (12/83)
Sr. F Perry Ellis (12/83)
Sr. F Hunter Mickelson (5/30)

Tuesday marked the first meeting between Kansas and UC Irvine.
Kansas improves to 7-2 against teams currently in the Big West Conference.

ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (234th-consecutive sellout)

Gives KU its 10th consecutive win, which is the longest winning streak since the 2012-13 season, when KU won 18 in a row.
Gives KU its 10 consecutive wins for the 13th time in the Bill Self era.
Gives KU its 30 consecutive win in Allen Fieldhouse, including a 6-0 record this season.
Kansas is 196-9 in Allen Fieldhouse during the Bill Self era, including a 97-5 record against non-conference opponents. 734-109 all-time in the venue.
Improves Bill Self’s record to 363-79 (.821) while at Kansas and 570-184 (.756) all-time.
Makes KU 2,164-832 (.722) all-time.

Although UC Irvine held a distinct height advantage, the Jayhawks out-rebounded the Anteaters, 35 to 28, and out-scored UC Irvine in the paint, 30 to 20. UC Irvine featured three players over 6-foot-10, including 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye.
KU’s defense recorded nine steals and forced 15 UC Irvine turnovers.
KU’s 51 field goals attempted are the fewest this season.
Kansas held UC Irvine to 13.3 percent shooting from 3-point range, marking the lowest 3-point percentage by a KU opponent this season
Kansas dished out 17 assists with just nine turnovers. It is the third game of the season KU has fewer than 10 turnovers — nine at San Diego State (12/22) and six against Michigan State (11/17).
Kansas responded to a 38.5 first-half field goal shooting percentage (10-of-26) with a 56.0 shooting percentage (14-of-25) in the second half.
KU’s 28 points in the first half is tied for the second-fewest points scored in a half this season with the Oregon State game, which the Jayhawks recovered to score 54 second-half points. The fewest points scored in a half this season was 26 points against Vanderbilt (11/25) in the Maui Invitational.
Kansas closes out the month of December with a perfect 7-0 record, including a 5-0 record in Allen Fieldhouse in December.
KU started the second half on an eight-point run in the first two minutes of the half.


Senior F Perry Ellis
Finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field with nine rebounds in 29 minutes.
Scored 13 of his 14 total points in the second half.
Shot 5-of-6 from the free throw line. His first attempt was missed to end his streak of 17 consecutive free throws made.
Grabbed seven rebounds in the first half, including five first-half offensive boards.
Ended with a total of five offensive rebounds to tie KU’s season high for individual offensive rebounds in a game with Carlton Bragg Jr. (Holy Cross; 12/9).
Tied his season high in rebounds (nine) for the third time in the last four games.
Already has eight 3-point field goals this season on 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Now has 1,338 career points to remain at 28th on KU’s career scoring list.
Now has 686 career rebounds to move into 16th on KU’s career rebounding list, passing Paul Mokeski (1977-79; 680).

Sophomore G Devonte’ Graham
Finished with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from 3-point range in 30 minutes.
Needed just one half to tie his season high for 3-point field goals made on 3-of-5 shooting beyond the arc in the first half. Graham made three all three of KU’s first-half treys.
Has made a 3-pointer in six consecutive games.

Junior G Brannen Greene
Scored 10 points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field and 8-of-11 shooting at the free throw line in 18 minutes.
Has reached double-figure points in four of seven games played this season.
First double-figure scoring game without making a 3-point field goal (0-2).

Junior G Frank Mason III
Scored 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting at the free throw line in 31 minutes.
Dished out six assists with just two turnovers.
Made first basket of the game on a fast-break layup 17 seconds into the contest.
Scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field with five assists in the first half.

Junior F Landen Lucas
Scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field in 15 minutes.
Three of his four field goals were dunks.


Bill Self
On KU’s improved play in the second half:
“Yeah, we played good in the second half, wish we could of played that way in the first half. But our energy level was good defensively both halves, but we didn’t attack their zone well at all. Then they mixed in man and we didn’t react well. Seems like in the first half we’re getting down under 10 seconds on the shot clock and we weren’t used to doing that. We only scored 28 at home in a half, that isn’t very good, but fortunately they only had 26. In the second we were terrific to start. Perry (Ellis) was aggressive and got us off to a good start. I really thought that Perry, Frank (Mason), Devonte’ (Graham), and Wayne (Selden) were pretty good, I didn’t think anybody was unbelievable when you look at stats but I thought Hunter (Mickelson) and Laden (Lucas) were both great in the second half. I thought they both gave us great minutes from the big position.”

On Hunter Mickelson’s and-one play:
“Well Hunt can run and I think he had three steals tonight. The big fella (Mamadou N’Diaye), I mean I got a little nervous just shaking hands with him in the handshake line, I mean he was huge. I have never seen anybody that big before and to see Landen and our guys guarding him, he was a full head or taller than those guys, and I thought he played pretty good. Of course the 7-foot-2 kid was the one who hurt us. He came in and made two threes and the scouting report said he could shoot even though he didn’t make very many of them, but he made a couple and fortunately our defense was good and we rebounded the ball above average and we kind of bought some time and kind of got into a rhythm offensively.”

On the three-point shooting:
“You could ask them, we’re not a team, I mean hopefully not – we did against Michigan State – but go 5-of-17 very often when a team plays a lot of zone. We got some good looks but didn’t make any of them, but fortunately for us Devonte’ made three in the first half or we would have been behind. We did some good things, but we also did some things that weren’t quite as good, but for in the most part the second half, I thought it was a pretty good team out there.”

On upcoming opponent Baylor:
“They will watch this game and will say, ‘Well we can definitely attack them with our zone,’ so we have to do a good job of figuring out some ways to get the ball in the middle of it. I really think the 7-foot-6 kid (Mamadou) N’Diaye, I think he totally intimidated us from throwing it in there. We didn’t even look to throw it in there even when he was sitting on the bench. Baylor fortunately is not that big, but they got a guy that can rebound better than anybody we’ve played against this year, so we are going to have do a good job of keeping him off the glass.”

Junior G Frank Mason III
On coach Self’s halftime talk:
“Coach was making a lot of adjustments to the things that we weren’t doing well and we came out and tried to focus on those so we could give ourselves a chance to extend the lead. The talk was an X’s-and-O’s thing with some hollering too.”

On summing up the non-conference schedule:
“I think we were a good team through the first 12 games. I think we did a good job, but we could have been better. We will learn from the mistakes we made tonight and we will watch film to prepare for our second season.”

On a mindset change as Kansas heads into conference play:
“There definitely is. We’ve won the Big 12 Conference regular season for 11 years straight and we don’t want to be the team to mess that up, so a lot of focus will go into that and we will practice to get better every day so can try to avoid being that team.”

On getting the younger players mindset right for conference play:
“I think the younger guys know how we feel about not wanting to be the team that doesn’t win the Big 12 this season. That is something that they take pride in. They are working hard so we can give ourselves the best chance to make it 12 in a row.”

Senior F Perry Ellis
On Kansas’ offense not being aggressive in the first half:
“I don’t think we were attacking like we should have been. We needed to start driving the ball and kick it out once we were in the lane. I felt like we passed the ball a little too much in the first half.”

On playing against Mamadou Ndiaye:
“It was different, very different. I’d say we were all a little hesitant in the first half to drive the ball into the lane, and in the second half we began to attack and good things happened from there.”

On playing alongside Landen Lucas:
“Landen (Lucas) has a great post presence and he did a great job defending. He got a few drop-offs and some dunks and he continued to play hard. He did a great job tonight.”

On how the team feels about setting up for conference play:
“I feel great about our team. I feel like we have gotten better and meshed together as a team. I have a lot of confidence going forward as we start our second season.”

On his feelings after a difficult first half:
“I caught the ball a lot in the middle and I was looking but I didn’t feel like I had very much space so I was passing the ball a lot. In reality, I did have space but I needed to adjust to it. At half, my coaches told me to attack from the middle and that was what I was trying to do in the second half. I just had to face up and look to realize that I had the space. I was trying to move too fast and I needed to face up and see the floor. That is what I focused on in the second half.”

Sophomore G Devonte’ Graham
On taking time to adjust to UC Irvine’s length:
“We hadn’t faced a team with the amount of length that they (UC Irvine) have quite yet and we probably won’t have to face players of their size again. Their zone was very long and active. The middle was wide open but we weren’t getting the ball into the middle of the zone at first. It took a little time and adjusting to it and Coach (Self) was showing us where the open spots were in the zone and how we could attack it. We found Perry (Ellis) in the second half and he made a few shots that sparked us.”

On going against Mamadou Ndiaye:
“It was fun. I didn’t really have to go against him much, that was more for our big guys. It was unique. He is a big guy. After the game, he said to me, ‘Good game little fella,’ so that was pretty funny for me.”

UC Irvine Head Coach Russell Turner
Opening statement:
“Give them credit. They jumped on us to start the game and we withstood that and I was pleased with that. In the second half it didn’t seem to me like we were able to generate the same kind of juice. That’s a credit to them, they’re good. This arena is outstanding with the fans and the atmosphere here. It’s hard here on the road. We weren’t able to make the plays to stem the tide. They played very well. One of their main guys, Perry Ellis, had a three-point play driving right, to his strength, which is exactly what we expected him to do. We weren’t able to make that play. That got them going, that was the first play of the second half. I thought we didn’t get back on defense very well a couple of plays after that. It got in our heads a little bit. We avoided that to that point, but Kansas is excellent so I’m not upset with my guys. I thought we played good for a half. I thought the two- or three-minute stretch right before halftime where we turned it over and gave them some easy baskets was a big momentum turning point going into halftime. Before that I thought we were maybe in a position to have a lead at halftime and then we turned it over a couple of times. You can’t do that on the road against a team of that quality and expect success.”

On playing a close first half with Kansas:
“I thought we played our game. It’s based on being able to go inside and most games we go into we have matchups that are advantageous to us. We did that, we kept the tempo low, we didn’t turn it over and Ioannis (Dimakopoulos) made two big three’s that gave us some confidence, but those are shots, when teams give him those, that he’ll make. I didn’t think we played great in the first half. I thought we played well on defense, I thought we rebounded and took care of the ball, I just don’t think we were able to play very well offensively the whole game and that’s a credit to them. They’re an excellent defensive team and an excellent offensive team.”

On Mamadou Ndiaye feeling the effects Kansas’ revolving door of frontcourt players guarding him:
“Kansas has more big guys that they can throw at our big guys. I think that wore us down, which is a good strategy for a team that has the type of depth Kansas has.”

UC Irvine Guard Alex Young
On controlling the first half and playing loose:
“That’s the mentality we had coming in. I even told the guys before we tipped off that we had nothing to lose tonight. We just have to go out there and play as free as possible and just be us. I thought we did that for the first half, but then we got tight in the second half and they went on that quick run to begin the half. We just weren’t able to bounce back.”

On pressure mounting when the game stays close:
“I don’t think it adds any pressure. I think it makes the game that much better for us. It makes us want to compete even harder to prove to people around the country that we can play with these top teams. We have gotten better at that. We’ve played teams like this before, like Arizona last year. We’ve been in these situations, we just have to keep growing from these experiences.”

UC Irvine Center Mamadou Ndiaye
On feeling the effects Kansas’ revolving door of frontcourt players guarding him:
“Not really. It’s not the first time a team has played me like that. They’re always trying to double me and play hard in the paint. They (usually) don’t leave me at all. I thought my teammates played smart and moved the ball and that’s what they did. It’s not new for me, but I am learning from it.”

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