LAWRENCE, Kansas (AP) — Bill Self never has to worry about Perry Ellis speaking out of turn.
Even now, midway through his junior season, the Kansas forward rarely strings together more than a few words at a time. He talks in short, clipped sentences. He deflects attention, even when he has just joined the 1,000-point club at a school drenched in basketball tradition.
So after pouring in 18 points to reach the scoring milestone Saturday, and helping the eighth-ranked Jayhawks to a 74-64 victory over No. 16 Baylor, it was no surprise that Ellis didn’t have a whole lot to offer eager reporters or in front of television cameras.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said simply. “I’m just blessed.”
Leave it to Self to lavish the praise.
“I’ve coached him for three years and he leaves me wanting more, but I haven’t thought that of late,” Self said. “I think he’s playing closer to his ceiling now than he has.”
Ellis had plenty of help on Saturday. Kelly Oubre also had 18 points and Wayne Selden Jr. had 15, helping the Jayhawks (21-4, 10-2 Big 12) dig out of a 13-point first-half hole.
The win was their 21st straight at Allen Fieldhouse, and ensured the 10-time champs would have no worse than a two-game lead in the conference race with six games to go.
“You don’t get easies (against them),” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “You have to beat them.”
Kansas was clinging to a 57-55 lead after the Bears’ Rico Gathers made two foul shots with about 6 minutes left. But Ellis scored a couple of baskets around a midrange jumper from Landen Lucas, who had nine points off the bench, and the Jayhawks began to pull away.
Oubre’s 3 from the top of the key, his fourth of the game, made it 67-59 with 1:59 left.
Gathers led the Bears (18-7, 6-6) with 18 points and eight rebounds, despite playing with four fouls late in the game. Kenny Chery followed his 25-point performance in the teams’ first meeting in Waco with 17 points, and Taurean Prince had 14 points off the bench.
Despite their long losing streak in Lawrence, the Bears looked unperturbed early on by the roaring sellout crowd stuffed inside the Jayhawks’ old barn. They launched an 18-6 run to open the game, beat Kansas to every loose ball and at one point had a 12-2 edge on the glass.
The Jayhawks finally hit their stride from behind the arc, hitting three straight 3s — perhaps to the chagrin of Bill Self, who called a period of hot outside shooting by his team “fools gold” after a recent victory. Baylor’s lead had been trimmed to 33-27 by halftime.
The Jayhawks kept up the pressure early in the second half, scoring right away on an alley-oop dunk by Wayne Selden. They finally took the lead for the first time when Oubre followed up his own missed 3 with a bucket at the rim to make it 36-35 with 17:13 remaining.
Baylor regained the lead a few minutes later, but the trio of Ellis, Oubre and Selden took over down the stretch, allowing Kansas to celebrate their forward’s personal achievement.
Even if everybody else would have to talk about it.
“Perry and I, we talk about everything imaginable — a lot of current issues, world peace, a lot of things that Perry and I have similar interests in,” Self said sarcastically. “But truthfully speaking, he has become more vocal, which doesn’t mean he’s vocal. But he’s much more comfortable in his own skin. He’s a much more confident player.”
Drew has been ill lately, and could barely croak out a sentence in his own right at his postgame news conference. “The officials love it,” he said. “They can’t hear me.”
Kansas played a special video in memory of Dean Smith, who died last Saturday at his home in North Carolina. The longtime Tar Heels coach grew up in nearby Topeka and was part of the Jayhawks’ national title team in 1952. He later served as an assistant at Kansas under Phog Allen.
Baylor: The Bears fell to 3-15 against Kansas under Drew. … Baylor wound up with a 33-32 edge on the boards. … The Bears allowed the Jayhawks to shoot 29 free throws.
Kansas: Frank Mason’s streak of 21 straight games scoring in double figures ended Saturday. He finished with five points and eight assists. … Among former players who returned during the NBA’s All-Star break were Ben McLemore, Nick Collison and Joel Embiid.
Baylor heads to Lubbock to face Texas Tech on Tuesday night.
Kansas visits No. 21 West Virginia on Monday night.