Orlando, FL –Kansas held off a spirited Tennessee second half charge to pull away for an 82-67 victory on Friday afternoon in the first of two semi-final games at the Orlando Classic on the grounds of Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
Once again, Kansas junior Perry Ellis proved to be the on-court and statistical leader of the Jayhawks making key plays to turn back the Vols and posting the first double-double of the tournament by scoring 24 points and collecting 13 rebounds. Ellis excelled from the elbow to the rim attacking the basket with spin moves off the bounce that the Tennessee bigs struggled to defend. Often times their only recourse was to foul, and Ellis took advantage at the line by making 11-of-12 attempts. An unselfish player with excellent court vision, Ellis was credited with three assists, one of which came on a lob pass and flush by teammate Cliff Alexander.
Coming off the bench to relieve foul-prone starting center Landen Lucas, the freshman Alexander showed why he was one of the most recruited bigs in the country last year out of Curie High School in Chicago. The 6’8″ post player does not as much run the court as he sprints it. He cleaned up teammates misses on the offensive end and blocked or altered shots at the defensive end. Teammates found Alexander with two back-to-back lob passes as he slipped behind the Tennessee match-up zone for strong dunks that helped Kansas build a second half lead. The Kansas crowd, easily the biggest contingent of the eight participating schools in the Orlando Classic, responded with the loudest collective cheer of the game.
Kansas off-guard Wayne Selden Jr. once again logged long minutes–33–and turned in a highly efficient performance scoring 12 points, collecting four rebounds and handing out four assists. Selden Jr. matched his two-for-four performance from behind the three-point line in Thursday’s win over Rhode Island by making two of his four tries from behind the arc, and his high-arching shot from the free throw line found the bottom of the net on four-of-five attempts. A strong bodied sophomore with well above average athleticism, Selden Jr. disrupted the Tennessee offense by denying and extending the guard-forward entry pass on more than occasion.
Senior point guard Josh Richardson did much of the heavy lifting for Tennessee leading the Vols in scoring with 16 points, rebounding with five and tying for the team lead with two assists. Richardson, a large point guard at 6’6″, was at his best in transition where his quickness helped him get to the rim and his length helped him to score over the smaller Kansas guards.
Kansas now plays the winner of tonight’s Marquette–Michigan State match-up in the Orlando Classic Championship Game at 1 pm eastern time on Sunday, November 30.
Rhode Island opened the second half of its consolation game with Santa Clara with a 14-0 run to turn a 35-27 halftime lead into a 49-27 cushion en route to defeating the Broncos, 66-44 in the consolation bracket.
As it was in its opening game loss to Kansas, Rhode Island was led by sophomore guard E.C. Matthews. Matthews shot the ball at a high rate of efficiency making seven-of-nine shots from the field including five of seven from behind the three-point line. The lean left-handed wing also used his craftiness to navigate the paint against bigger post players to score near the basket. Freshman Jared Terrell was the second Ram in double figures contributing 13 points and converting two of five shots from behind the arc.
Rhode Island’s size and strength were able to mostly neutralize the Santa Clara backcourt tandem of senior Brandon Clark and sophomore Jared Brownridge. Clark made five of ten shots including two of three from distance in scoring 14 points to lead the Broncos. But that was more than four points below his scoring average and his one assist was well below his average of 4.6 entering the game. Clark’s probing of the Rhode Island interior defense was often rebuffed and at an even six feet in height, he struggled to shoot and pass over the taller and stronger Rams. Brownridge, entering the game scoring at a 12 ppg clip, made two of seven shots from the field and finished with seven points.
Rhode Island finishes its three-game run in the Orlando Classic by playing for the tournament’s consolation championship on Sunday, November 30 at 6:30 pm eastern time against the winner of the Georgia Tech–Rider game.
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