KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Through the first 20 minutes, the semifinal matchup between No. 7/6-ranked Kansas and Iowa State appeared to have the makings of a classic heavyweight boxing trilogy with the first two memorable meetings in the books, but Perry Ellis and the Jayhawks dominated the waning rounds and earned an 88-73 decision Friday night to earn a spot in the championship game of the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at the Sprint Center.
With the victory, Kansas (28-5) will advance to the Big 12 Championship title game for 10th time in the 17-year history over event. The Jayhawks will face the winner of the second semifinal game between Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The title game is scheduled for 5 p.m., Saturday and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Kansas jumped out on the Cyclones (22-11) early with a 9-2 run to open the final frame, thanks to five points from Elijah Johnson, for a 44-33 lead. The four-point deficit proved to be the closet Iowa State would be to the Jayhawks the rest of the way. KU blew the game open with a 16-point margin, 55-39, following a 7-0 run that included three points by Jeff Withey. ISU cut the Kansas lead down to nine points three different times, by the Jayhawks answered each time to regain a double-digit advantage.
Ellis poured in a career-best and game-high 23 points, on 10-for-12 shooting, to lead four Jayhawks in double figures. Withey and Johnson each finished with 14 points apiece and Ben McLemore chipped in 10.
The two teams traded the first four baskets of the game and with the contest tied, 4-4, Iowa State went on the first run with an 8-0 spurt to take a 12-4 edge at the 14:29 mark. The lead was short-lived, as Kansas rattled off nine-straight points of its own, with four coming from Kevin Young, to take its first lead, 13-12, with 11:08 left.
KU didn’t relinquish its lead until the 7:47 mark. Following a pair of KU technicals, one on McLemore and another nearly two minutes later on head coach Bill Self, Iowa State took advantage and sank all four of the charity shots and used an 8-4 run to hold a slim, 21-20, lead.
With McLemore on the bench with two personal fouls, fellow freshman Ellis picked up the offense and scored six-straight Kansas points. Ellis’ fourth made field goal gave KU a 28-26 lead with 3:47 left in the half. That shot was part of an 8-0 Kansas run that eventually pushed the Jayhawk lead to 32-26. Iowa State followed with five-straight points, but Travis Releford buried a three-point field goal with six seconds on the clock for the 35-31 halftime lead.
Transcript of the media session following the game:
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with Kansas, Coach Bill Self, Perry Ellis, and Elijah Johnson. Coach your thoughts on the victory tonight.
COACH SELF: I thought it was a very emotional game, both teams, especially Iowa State, they came out of the chute fast, and our guys knew it would be an emotion‑filled game. After about the 12‑minute mark I thought we did a good job playing with energy and matching their emotion, and we played pretty good defensively and rebounding the ball well, and of course we had one individual, you know, Perry just was off the charts good.
So they're good. They're talented and they stretch it, and hard to guard. And I thought we did a pretty nice job.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. This is for Perry and for Elijah. Coach talked about energy. Do you think that was maybe the deciding factor in terms of being able to take care of this in 40 minutes as opposed to having to gut out another overtime win?
PERRY ELLIS: Definitely. We know that energy pushes our team, and we found that out over the last couple of games and the games before that, that energy really pushes us.
So I feel it really does.
ELIJAH JOHNSON: I agree with Perry. I think our energy definitely carried us throughout the game. When other people relax, we try to feed off ourselves instead of the crowd. And we just keep our head into the game. Give as much energy as we can at all times.
Q. Talk about how key that 3 that Releford made just before the half was. Was that momentum going into the locker room at halftime?
ELIJAH JOHNSON: That was big momentum. Coach has made me a big believer in the way you go into the locker room definitely affects the way you go out of the locker room. With Travis making that 3, he missed a couple of them early, but he wasn't scared to shoot it, and I felt like it was set up for that one to go in. It was a big momentum boost to go into the locker room with energy pumped up and just come out and feed off of that.
PERRY ELLIS: Yeah, definitely. We always want to try to go into the locker room with momentum, and we came out and we pushed through. So it was great momentum for us.
Q. Perry, did you hear the chants out there? And you were a top 5 trending topic on Twitter today. It was just such a huge night. How do you kind of sum this thing up? Everybody in the world was saying your name.
PERRY ELLIS: It was great. Kevin got hurt, so I just try to come in and attack and help my team. That's all I was trying to do, was trying to win.
Q. Perry, looked like Coach Self had some special inspiration for you during that first timeout. Did that kind of inspire you to go out and do what you're able to do the rest of the game?
PERRY ELLIS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it gave me a lot of confidence, and I just tried to keep going, keep pushing.
Q. Perry, you talked about Kevin getting hurt. Was this more of a matter of just more opportunities were there for you in this game? I assume we can call this the best game you played at KU, right? Was this more opportunities were there, or was this more you were being more aggressive than maybe you've been in the past?
PERRY ELLIS: I would say ‑‑ I mean, every time I'm subbing in for him I'm trying to be aggressive, just coming in, playing my best. It was just my turn to go play. So I just tried to play my best.
Q. Elijah, a lot was made regarding the last game, the last time you guys saw Iowa State, the revenge, the grudge factor. Did you guys feel any of that leading up to tonight?
ELIJAH JOHNSON: I mean, of course you feel the tension. But we know that we're a big target regardless of who we play every night. And that's the type of program that we're playing for. That's what's on our chest. So we expect that from everybody, not just Iowa State. We expect that last game, the next game, and today's game. So it's nothing too unusual for us.
I just feel like it got to the media, it kind of became a big deal since we're in the same building for the next couple of days.
Q. Have you seen Coach Self ever that angry during a game situation when he picked up the tech tonight?
PERRY ELLIS: I mean, it was probably ‑‑ I haven't, actually. That was probably the angriest I've seen him.
ELIJAH JOHNSON: I go to practice with him every day, so...no, I feel like Coach did that to get us fired up. I felt like there was a reason to it. He didn't do it for no reason. It worked.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. So was it on purpose, Bill, that you went after that technical?
COACH SELF: I could have got one 10 minutes earlier; would have saved me a lot of embarrassment. I didn't agree with the technical call on Ben at all and certainly didn't agree with the explanation. But John called it, and I should live with it probably more than what I did.
But the thing that ‑‑ I acted like an idiot, I know. But the thing that I think is so great about our game is you talk about our two games that everybody's made a big deal with Iowa State, Iowa State's good. And we were fortunate to win both games. And the whole deal is this is the third time and they'll be as classic and as much energy, and we want to play Kansas so bad. It was important that our guys played with unbelievable emotion in order to match their emotion. So if the players are going to play with emotion, the coach might as well have some emotion, too.
So I was wrong to act like that and to get a technical and all that. And I haven't seen it, so it may end up being a good call so I've got no reason to gripe. Certainly at that moment, when it takes your best player out of the game and gets him his second foul with 10 minutes or 12 minutes left in the half that was a pretty big play.
So I disagreed, and, yeah, they could have popped me a lot earlier, then I wouldn't have had to act that way for so long, probably. But probably wasn't much strategy involved, though.
Q. What specifically didn't you agree with the technical? And what kind of things have you tried to get going with Perry throughout the season, just to get him going?
PERRY ELLIS: With my technical? Oh, I deserved that. They could have given me one earlier. They told me they were going to give me one. And I'm not a real good listener.
But with Perry, our whole deal with him is to be aggressive, be aggressive. He's one of those kids that as soon as you say run, he'll run faster. As soon as you say jump, he'll jump higher. One of those things.
So he's a quick‑twitch kid. But you want him to be more aggressive all the time. And tonight they played behind him on the post and he was able to get catches. And that's what he can do. I mean, he played great.
But the plays he made are plays that I think he can consistently make if he just stays aggressive and stays confident.
Q. Coach, seems like every time you graduate somebody or somebody leaves early for the pros you've got somebody else to step in. Is Perry Ellis the next star?
COACH SELF: He could be. We've had a pretty good recruiting class too. Hopefully we're not done. Perry is going to score a lot of points at Kansas. The thing about it is I hope he's a star. But a star ‑‑ I thought Brady Morningstar was a star and I thought Tyrel Reed was a star and I think Travis Releford is a star.
These guys have become really good basketball players without being the guys that everybody talks about, to give us the best chance to win. But Perry's a guy that can put up numbers, and not everybody has that capability. I think he has a chance to be a tremendous player.
Q. You were chucking that 3 ball in the first half, about 15 of them. I think you had four in the second half. You pulled it back?
COACH SELF: Well, two guys combined for 11 3s in the first half, and that's fine, but not when you go 2‑for‑11. And we shot ‑‑ have been shooting seven 3s a half. That's a good thing. Elijah and Travis were pulling. They weren't bad shots, but they just didn't give us a chance to expose what we wanted to expose, was getting the ball inside.
And so the second half, you know, you stop and think about it. Our big guys, our four big guys got 28 shots, I believe was the total number or something like that. I mean, 30 shots. That's an unbelievably high number for us. But we were so much better playing through our bigs in the second half.
Q. With the way you were winning, so many moments under the basket in the second half, did you intentionally try to be more physical with them this game in the third matchup in any way, just in terms of the way they are smaller and away from the hoop?
COACH SELF: We did want to throw the ball inside more than we did in the other matchups. But to be more physical, that's always something we need to do. But to me, I got great respect for their players, and Fred does a terrific job.
But watching that OU game yesterday, Iowa State didn't make shots but they win the game because I think it's 44 to 31 on the glass and then they get hot late. And I always think that's such an important deal with our team to somehow steal some extra possessions, and you usually do that by being the more aggressive or more physical team.
I thought we were really aggressive going after the ball there in the first half, especially. And then second half I just thought we just threw the ball inside more.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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