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Freshman Ellis shines for No. 7 Kansas

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas unveiled its 2014 model a bit early.

Freshman Perry Ellis scored a career-high 23 points, and the seventh-ranked Jayhawks moved into position to claim another Big 12 Conference tournament title with a 88-73 semifinal victory over Iowa State on Friday.

The game drew a tournament-record crowd of 19,116 to Sprint Center.

Kansas coach Bill Self always seems to come up with another star when he loses one to the NBA, and Ellis may be the next. With four senior starters and freshman All-American Ben McLemore on the squad, Self will need another player to step forward.

"He could be (the next big star)," Self said after the game. "We've had a pretty good recruiting class, too. Perry is going to score a lot of points at Kansas. Perry's a guy who can put up numbers, and not everybody has that capability. I think he has a chance to be a tremendous player."

Ellis was efficient for the Jayhawks (28-5), hitting 10 of 12 shots from the field and three of three from the line. He was joined in double figures by Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson with 14 points apiece and McLemore with 10.

"Kevin (Young) got hurt, so I just tried to come in and attack and help my team," Ellis said. "That's all I was trying to do, trying to win."

Georges Niang led the Cyclones with 19 points, but he was more impressed with the game put out by Ellis.

"He did a great job of finishing dump-downs," Niang said. "Sometimes we got caught out of position. The kid played a good game, and we weren't expecting that."

Melvin Ejim scored 17 points and Tyrus McGee had 12 for Iowa State (22-11).

On Saturday, the Jayhawks will face No. 11 Kansas State. If Kansas wins, it would capture its ninth title in the 17-year history of the Big 12 tournament.

"Today we got off to a great start and hit a wall, especially in the second half," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They scored on 15 of 18 possessions and shot 69 percent in the second half. You just can't allow that and still have a chance to beat a great team like this."

Kansas scored nine of the first 11 points of the second half to pull away from Iowa State. Johnson scored the first seven, then Withey and Ellis took turns extending Kansas' lead. When Withey converted a traditional three-point play, the lead was 53-39 and Kansas was on cruise control.

"Iowa State came out fast," Self said. "but after about the 12-minute mark, I thought we did a good job playing with energy and matching their emotion.

"They're good. They're talented and they stretch it. They're hard to guard. I thought we did a pretty nice job."

The first two times the two squads met each other, the game went into overtime. Kansas prevailed in both games, but not without some late-game controversy. This time, the Jayhawks made sure there was no drama involved.

"We know we're a big target regardless of who we play every night," Johnson said. "That's the type of program we're playing for. We expect that from everybody, not just Iowa State."

The first half was much more even than the 35-31 score suggests. The teams traded baskets throughout the half with the exception of two spurts -- one by each team. With the score tied 4-4, Iowa State ripped off an 8-0 run, keyed by 3-pointers by Chris Babb and Ejim. Kansas answered with a 9-0 run to get the lead back.

Ellis came up big for Kansas in the first half. The freshman from Wichita, Kan., came off the bench to lead the Jayhawks with eight points. He's scored in double figures only five times this season, including just twice in league play. Travis Releford hit a 3-pointer for Kansas right before the buzzer.

NOTES: Iowa State's comeback win Thursday against Oklahoma snapped an eight-game losing streak in the Big 12 tournament, dating back to a 77-57 victory over Baylor in 2005. ... Iowa State is on pace to establish a Big 12 Conference record for 3-pointers per game with 9.9 (316 total). The records are 9.3 by Nebraska in 2002 and 327 by Oklahoma State in 2007. ... Friday was Kansas' 15th appearance in the tournament semifinals in the 17-year history of the conference. Kansas is 10-5 in those games.
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