LAWRENCE (AP) — Even though Kansas entered its game Saturday against Montana with the nation’s third-best scoring offense, coach Bill Self had been imploring his guys to play better on defense.
Evidently, they heard his plea.
Perry Ellis had 18 points and nine rebounds and the second-ranked Jayhawks used some stifling defense to bury the Grizzlies, 88-46.
“The big deal with us is we just have to get better from a team-defense standpoint, playing the scouting report,” said Self, whose team held Montana to 26 percent from the field. “We were fortunate they missed some shots. But still, I think we had something to do with it.”
Brannen Greene and Wayne Selden added 11 points apiece, and Svi Mykhailiuk finished with 10 for the Jayhawks (9-1), who led by 20 at halftime before coasting to their eighth straight win.
The victory in the Jayhawks’ first game at Allen Fieldhouse in 10 days was also their 29th in a row at their venerable arena. That’s the seventh-best streak in school history.
“We were overwhelmed when the ball went up, to be honest,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “I think the guys fought, they kept playing, they tried their hardest to compete.”
Brandon Gfeller led the Griz (4-6) with 12 points in the first meeting between the schools since Dec. 1, 1962. But unlike that game, when Montana hung around in a close defeat, the Jayhawks made sure their hot shooting and suffocating defense would have this one over by halftime.
“We knew they were a great team, but we’ve also played some pretty good teams, and played them pretty well,” Montana guard Michael Oguine said. “We still have to come out and play hard.”
Kansas was in control from the opening tip, when Greene responded to his first start by making a 3 in the opening minute. Frank Mason III and Ellis converted three-point plays on the next two trips down floor, and the Jayhawks never trailed again.
Instead, the rest of the game amounted to a Kansas highlight reel.
There was Selden’s alley-oop pass that Cheick Diallo flushed, and Diallo’s rim-shaking dunk just moments later. There was the Selden’s nifty no-look pass that set up Carlton Bragg’s layup, and Selden’s soaring dunk along the baseline that gave the Jayhawks a 31-17 lead late in the half.
Perhaps no play trumped Mason’s when he got the ball in the open floor and went around the back with it on the drive to the basket. He scored while getting fouled and made the free throw.
“We try to get out in practice, get the ball out, rebound and push it and it works well for us,” Ellis said. “(Self) is telling us to continually push it and run.”
Powerless in grounding the high-flying Jayhawks, the Griz only made six field goals in the first half. They missed 10 of their final attempts in falling behind 44-24 at intermission.
The Jayhawks outscored the Griz 18-3 out of the break before coasting the rest of the way.
“We wanted to step out and show we’ve improved,” Ellis said. “I feel like we had a good win, it was a good game for everybody. You can take a lot of positive out of it.”
GRAHAM OFF BENCH
Devonte Graham did not start after oversleeping Saturday, so Greene got the nod. “Devonte is the starter. Don’t make a big deal out of that,” Self said. “He didn’t say his alarm clock was broke. At least he didn’t come with that one.”
Kansas fans broke the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people wearing holiday sweaters when 3,473 showed up in them. A holiday sweater is defined as “having at least one holiday themed item on it, such as reindeer, trees, snowmen or lights.” The record had been 1,175, set by Loughborough University in England on Dec. 10, 2014.
Montana: Starting guards Oguine and Walter Wright and combined to go 2 of 15 from the field. ... The Griz were out-rebounded, 44-26. ... Montana is 4-0 at home, 0-6 on the road.
Kansas: Bragg and Graham scored nine points apiece. ... Mason finished with seven points and nine assists. ... The Jayhawks came in averaging 90 points.
Montana: Plays its nonconference finale against Montana Western on Tuesday night.
Kansas: Tries to avenge a 2014 loss at San Diego State on Tuesday night.