Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
KANSAS CITY, Mo. The chant started slowly, quietly.
Perry, Perry, Perry. Within seconds, everyone wearing Kansas blue had joined in.
They serenaded Perry, Perry, Perry Ellis the Jayhawks' unlikely hero in a statement-making, 88-73 triumph over the Cyclones in Friday night's Big 12 Championship semifinals before a record crowd of 19,160 at the Sprint Center.
"That was our plan to take (Ben) McLemore out of the game, take (Jeff) Withey out of the game," ISU guard Chris Babb said. "He took advantage of it."
Ellis, a freshman, scored a game-high 23 points eight above his previous career benchmark. He drained 10 of 12 shots from the field and helped his team craft a 40-30 rebounding edge.
He simply couldn't be stopped, nor could any of the Jayhawks, who shot 69 percent in the second half and led the final 23:43.
"The kid played a good game and we weren't expecting that," said ISU's Georges Niang, who scored 19 points, including a 3-pointer that pulled his team within 71-62 with five minutes left. "Sometimes you've just got to take that and regroup and move on."
The Jayhawks' regular-season overtime wins over the Cyclones (22-11) came with miracles and/or controversy attached. That wasn't the case this time as Kansas scored on 15 of 18 possessions in one stretch, including one fueled by four offensive rebounds that ended in an Ellis' dunk.
"You work so hard to get the stop and they get an offensive rebound then another offensive rebound," said ISU's Will Clyburn, who scored 17 points in Thursday's quarterfinal win over Oklahoma but ended up with eight Friday. "That just kills you."
Early, the Cyclones appeared poised to exact revenge as planned. They forced Kansas (28-5) to miss 8 of its first 10 shots and raced to a 12-4 lead capped by Melvin Ejim's 3-pointer.
"We gave them the first punch," said Ejim, who surpassed the career 1,000 points mark by scoring 17. But the Jayhawks struck for a 9-0 run to lead 13-12.
Then things got chippy.
McLemore swished one from beyond the arc. He taunted ISU's bench and drew a technical.
That incensed Kansas Coach Bill Self, who rode the officials until he was T'd up as well with 7:47 left in the first half.
"I deserved that," Self said.
"They told me they were going to give me one and I'm not a real good listener."
Self described the game as "emotion-filled."
ISU was convinced it should have won both regular-season meetings, particularly the controversy-marred one in Ames that led to the issuance of a Big 12 statement acknowledging officiating mistakes had been made.
"We just thought we were going to get this one," said Cyclone point guard Korie Lucious. "It hurts that we lost."
The Cyclones now enter wait-and-see mode with Sunday's 5 p.m. NCAA tournament selection show looming.
The bubble's no longer an issue. How they respond is.
"Every time after a loss, this team comes out stronger," Clyburn said.