No. 7 Kansas Handles Hornets in Home Exhibition Opener, 88-54
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Freshman Perry Ellis was perfect from the floor in his first outing inside Allen Fieldhouse to guide the Kansas men’s basketball team to its 60th exhibition victory, topping Emporia State, 88-54, Tuesday night.
KU improved to 3-2 in exhibition play, counting the Jayhawks’ games against the Swiss National Team and AMW France. The Jayhawks moved to 60-9 all-time in exhibition games, and in his 30th exhibition game at Kansas, head coach Bill Self moved to 28-2 in preseason play. The 10-year head coach introduced a new look to his starting lineup as the Jayhawks unofficially kicked off the 2012-13 season at home.
In their first opportunity to crack the starting five, freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor did so. They joined veteran starters in senior center Jeff Withey and redshirt senior guard Travis Releford along with sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe.
KU’s leading scorers, however, came off the bench. Ellis was the first to check in for the Jayhawks, the first to double digits and ended the night with a team-high 15 points. Senior guard Elijah Johnson was the second sub of the evening and turned in a 12-point effort.
Every available Jayhawk saw playing time on Tuesday night, 11 of which scored. Aside from Ellis and Johnson, McLemore and White III chalked up double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Freshman forward Landen Lucas led the Jayhawks on the boards with nine, while Johnson dished out a team-best five assists.
Emporia State dropped its second exhibition contest Tuesday night and was led by junior forward Gavin Brown’s 14 points. Freshman guard Terrance Moore, a high school teammate of KU’s Ellis, was the only other Hornet to hit double figures as he added 10 points.
McLemore wasted no time getting to the basket, taking a pass from Tharpe for a dunk just 10 seconds into the game. It was the Hornets, however, who got off to the early start. The visiting squad came out firing, making three of its first four attempts – including two three-point baskets – to jump out to a 10-4 lead. After McLemore’s early bucket, the Jayhawks wouldn’t lead again until the 11:03 mark following Johnson’s first three of the game.
Once KU fell behind in the early minutes, freshmen duo Ellis and Andrew White III checked in to combine for eight quick points to knot the score, 12-12. Back-to-back threes from Johnson and McLemore handed the Jayhawks the 19-14 lead and the home team ran with it. By the time Tharpe downed his second three-pointer in a 40-second span, Kansas had ignited for a 19-1 run with seven minutes to play in the opening half.
Up 31-15, freshman guard Rio Adams connected on his first unofficial points as a Jayhawk, knocking down his second of two free throws, while a breakaway dunk for Releford pushed the Kansas lead over the 20-point margin. Heading into the final media timeout of the first half, the Jayhawks held a comfortable 38-17 lead.
Although ESU went 3-for-4 in the opening minutes, Kansas held the Hornets to a mere 5-for-23 mark for the remainder of the first half. Conversely, the Jayhawks finished the opening frame shooting 55 percent, led by Ellis and Tharpe who contributed eight points apiece. The Jayhawks took a 42-21 lead into halftime.
Withey, who was quiet in the first half with a single bucket, scored the first five points in the second half. The senior completed a three-point play and took a well-placed pass from Johnson under the basket got the offense out to a smooth start. Traylor sprinted down the floor for a two-handed fast-break dunk to send KU over the 50-point mark with 15 minutes remaining.
Grabbing his own rebound, Ellis was fouled as he drilled an impressive jumper fading away from the basket. He converted the three-point play to become the first Jayhawk in double-digits for the night. Ellis was quickly joined in double figures by McLemore and Johnson as Kansas surged ahead, 70-36, approaching the eight-minute media timeout.
As Self checked multiple combinations of players into the game, KU received late buckets from White and Lucas to end the night shooting 54 percent as a team and cruise to the 88-54 victory.
No. 7 Kansas continues exhibition play when it hosts defending MIAA Champion Washburn on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.