KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perry Ellis scored a career-high 23 points, and seventh-ranked Kansas pulled away in the second half to beat Iowa State 88-73 on Friday night and reach the Big 12 tournament title game.
Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson added 14 points each, and Ben McLemore finished with 10 for the top-seeded Jayhawks (28-5), who advanced to play No. 11 Kansas State or No. 14 Oklahoma State on Saturday night for its sixth Big 12 tournament championship.
Georges Niang scored 19 points and Melvin Ejim had 17 for the fifth-seeded Cyclones (22-11), who were trying to turn the tables after losing to the Jayhawks twice in overtime this season.
Instead, Kansas won for the 16th time in their last 17 meetings.
Ellis was a big reason why.
The freshman forward from Wichita, Kan., surpassed his previous career high of 15 points set in the Jayhawks' season opener by shooting 10 of 12 from the field. He also had six rebounds as chants of "Perry! Perry!" filled the building in the waning moments of the game.
Iowa State, one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams, was 9 of 33 from the arc.
An emotionally charged atmosphere inside the packed Sprint Center boiled over midway through the first half, when McLemore hit a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Iowa State bench.
The Jayhawks' freshman did a little jig down the sideline, and referee John Higgins blew his whistle and gave McLemore a technical foul for taunting. That set off Kansas coach Bill Self, who one day earlier said he wasn't worried about whether the referees would affect the outcome.
Babb made both of the technical foul shots to get Iowa State within 16-15, but Self refused to stop screaming. He stomped up and down the sideline for nearly five minutes, spewing a steady stream of venom toward the officials, and finally earned his own technical foul.
When it was called, assistant coach Joe Dooley had to keep Self from storming onto the court.
This time, Tyrus McGee made the two free throws to give the Cyclones a 21-20 lead.
Perhaps taking a cue from their fired up coach, the Jayhawks became more aggressive offensively, cutting through the lane to score on an array of floaters and layups near the rim.
Travis Releford's 3-pointer in the closing seconds gave Kansas a 35-31 halftime lead.
The Cyclones, who rely so heavily on the 3-pointer, missed their first six from beyond the arc in the second half, and that allowed the Jayhawks to slowly build on their lead.
Withey scored seven points during a 20-8 surge to start the half, and by the time Naadir Tharpe drove the lane for a bucket and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg called timeout, the Cyclones trailed 55-39 – the biggest deficit for either team in three games this season.
Iowa State managed to trim the lead to 59-49 on a 3-pointer by Will Clyburn a few minutes later, but Kansas answered with seven quick points, including a 3 by McLemore in front of the Jayhawks' bench – no dancing this time – that again forced Hoiberg to call timeout.
The closest the Cyclones got the rest of the way was nine points, and chants of "Rock! Chalk! Jayhawk! K-U!" filled the Sprint Center, where a record crowd of 19,116 had turned out.
Many fans thought this would settle the score after two nail-biters in the regular season.
In their first meeting at Allen Fieldhouse, Iowa State led most of the way, only to watch McLemore get hot down the stretch. The freshman finished with 33 points, including a banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that forced overtime in a 97-89 victory.
The return game at Hilton Coliseum last month may have trumped it.
Kansas rallied behind a career-high 39 points from Johnson, including eight in the last 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime, as the Jayhawks emerged with a 108-96 win.
After the game, the Big 12 disciplined two of the game officials for errors that occurred with the game on the line. The league never disclosed the mistakes, but a foul on Kansas was awarded to the wrong player, and a questionable no-call in a charge-block situation – and the subsequent foul on the Cyclones during a loose ball – helped the Jayhawks force overtime.
There was no extra time needed this time.
The Jayhawks made sure of it.