Ellis helps Kansas power past Iowa State
- Mar. 15, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The third game in the Kansas-Iowa State series did not live up to hype of the game, but it did live up to the hype fed to most fans at the beginning of the season.
The first two games came with unexpected endings and incredible drama.
First, freshman guard Ben McLemore, the face of Kansas basketball this year, scored 33 points along with a bank shot for the ages as Kansas pulled out an overtime victory.
Second, Elijah Johnson, the senior point guard and leader of the team who displayed a bit of brilliance with his 39-point performance in a victory against the Cyclones in Ames.
Then there’s freshman Perry Ellis, the forward who scored 23 points at the Sprint Center in Kansas’ 88-73 victory over Iowa State on Friday night.
A player who slowly progressed this season and appears to be peaking at the right time, Ellis showed off an impressive display of quickness, awareness and a killer instinct around the rim that made him one of the more coveted recruits in recent Kansas state history.
Ellis’ consistent performance made the difference between the first two games for the entire team. He was a constant presence around the ball and brought a new level of energy the Jayhawks had not seen in a while.
“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,” Ellis said.
He was efficient on the offensive end with 10-of-12 from the field along with making all three free throws.
For Kansas coach Bill Self, it’s hard for him to measure Ellis on where he’s going to be, but he knows he’s going to continue to develop throughout the next few weeks.
“Perry’s a guy that can put up numbers and not everybody has that capability,” Self said. “I think he has a chance to be a tremendous player.”
Ellis cleared up the glass nicely with six rebounds as well and his 28 minutes also helped after senior forward Kevin Young twisted his ankle early in the first half.
Despite being out of the contest, Young loved seeing Ellis succeed after the growing pains of transitioning from Wichita Heights.
“It gives me energy to see him play like that,” Young said. “He’s been working so hard for him to finally have a game like this in a tournament environment is great.”
The more impressive performance for the Jayhawks was the ability to transition into a better unit in the second half after a wild and wacky first half.
This helped when Johnson stepped up in the second half, knocking down open threes and driving to the basket. He finished the game with 14 points.
Johnson also sensed the hostile mood of the night early with the Kansas technical fouls by McLemore and Self and the malicious words spouting out of people’s mouths in the stands.
“Of course you feel the tension, but we know that we’re big target regardless of who we play every night,” Johnson said. “And that’s the type of program that we’re playing for. That’s what’s on our chest.”
Senior guard Travis Releford embodies what it’s meant to play for the name on the front of the chest. He’s sacrificed a lot for the program.
And Releford did not have his best night as a Jayhawk, but he still managed nine points and six rebounds.
However, he knocked down a three with six seconds left in the first half with four-point lead going into halftime.
He did not make a lot of plays, but he knew when it was time to step up and help his team.
At this point in the season it’s not about who, but when each player on the team rises to the occasion and for Kansas it can be any player at any time.
“Early on he was uncomfortable with the system and how we want to do things,” Releford said. “He just stayed on him in practice and had him step up tonight because of it.”
Ellis’ teammate Jeff Withey also managed to end up near his season averages with 14 points and six rebounds.
Withey is a shy player as well who grew into his shell and understands the progression like Ellis to become the player for the Jayhawks.
“At the beginning of the year he was a really shy guy,” Withey said. “He doesn’t really speak out or anything like that, but I’ve gotten to know him pretty well and I think he’s starting to get real comfortable with everybody.”
Withey also realized that this Kansas team is hard to plan for and will continue to get better throughout the weeks of March.
“We have so many ball players,” Withey said. “Everybody wants to step up and play and we always have somebody step up. It doesn’t matter that it’s against Iowa State, but just everybody knew when to step up.”