LAWRENCE (AP) — Perry Ellis had 14 points, Frank Mason III added 13 and No. 2 Kansas pulled away in the second half to beat UC Irvine 78-53 on Tuesday night in its final tuneup before pursuing a 12th consecutive Big 12 championship.
The Jayhawks (11-1) sleepwalked through much of the game, and trailed 26-22 late in the first half. But a 22-2 spurt spanning halftime allowed them to seize control, and a couple of big baskets by Ellis and Landen Lucas down the stretch put Irvine (10-5) away.
Brannen Greene finished with 10 points, and Devonte Graham had nine for the Jayhawks, who have won 10 straight since blowing a second-half lead in their lone loss to No. 1 Michigan State.
The Jayhawks still have a high-profile non-conference game against Kentucky in late January at Allen Fieldhouse, but they will first turn their attention to Big 12 play. They face No. 23 Baylor on Saturday before getting a visit from No. 3 Oklahoma two days later.
They will have to play better than they did Tuesday night.
Especially in the first half.
The interior size of the Anteaters gave Kansas fits most of the game, with 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye and 7-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos taking turns in the post. Ndiaye finished with 12 points and a couple of highlight-worthy blocks, while Dimakopoulos had 10 points.
After scoring the game’s first seven points, the Jayhawks initially struggled to keep the game the kind of up-tempo affair they favor. That gave the Anteaters’ big post players a chance to get down the court and set up on defense, and force Kansas into taking a flurry of outside jumpers.
On one trip down court, the Jayhawks missed three consecutive 3-pointers.
By the time Dimakopoulos hit his second 3-pointer, and Jaron Martin added a bucket a moment later, the Anteaters had built a 26-22 lead with 2:06 left in the first half.
The Jayhawks’ big run began quietly when Graham hit a 3 and Kansas managed to eke out a 28-26 halftime lead. But it was Ellis who came alive early in the second half, slithering and contorting his body around Ndiaye to score at the rim — despite giving up 10 inches.
Irvine coach Russell Turner grew so incensed that he let loose an expletive during a moment of quiet that was heard throughout Allen Fieldhouse. A few minutes later, Turner was so upset with the officiating that his complaints earned him a technical foul.
By that point, Kansas was well on its way to a 30th straight win at the Phog.
UC Irvine: Sun Bowl Invitational MVP Luke Nelson was 0 for 6 from beyond the arc and totaled eight points. ... The Anteaters finished a stretch of seven of eight away from home.
Kansas: Mason had six assists. ... The Jayhawks’ win streak is their longest since 2012-13, when they won 18 in a row. ... Kansas had been averaging 88 points per game.
Kansas hosts No. 23 Baylor on Saturday.