LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The guy on the Kansas roster that UNLV coach Dave Rice placed at the top of the scouting report wasn't one of the Jayhawks' five-star prospects or McDonald's All-Americans. It was Frank Mason, their relatively unheralded 5-foot-11 point guard.
Evidently, the Runnin' Rebels didn't pay attention.
Mason had 18 points and seven assists in another virtuoso performance Sunday, helping the No. 13 Jayhawks pull away late in a 76-61 victory in their nonconference finale.
"Mason's the guy that makes that whole thing go," Rice said afterward. "He's the guy that organizes things and gets the ball where it needs to go. ... He's the key to their season."
Mason has emerged as one of the nation's premier guards by not only giving Kansas reliable ball-handling but also some much-needed scoring punch. The sophomore has scored in double figures in 10 straight with at least five assists in seven of them.
Not that Mason didn't have plenty of help.
Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis added 16 points apiece, Kelly Oubre had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Cliff Alexander finished with 10 points off the bench as the Jayhawks (11-2) tuned up for the defense of their Big 12 title by winning their 15th straight at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I always knew I was capable of being this good," Mason said, "but I still don't think I'm playing good. I'm just doing what my teammates need me to do, coach wants me to do."
Christian Wood had 12 points and eight boards for UNLV (9-5), which has never beaten Kansas in five tries, two of those games in the unfriendly confines of the Phog.
Cody Doolin also had 12 points for UNLV. Rashad Vaughn and Jelan Kendrick had 10 apiece.
"I was pleased with our effort the first 32 minutes or so," said Doolin, one of the Runnin' Rebels' lone upperclassmen. "I just think down the stretch they just out-executed us."
The first half resembled a yo-yo, the Jayhawks quickly pulling away in spurts, only for the Runnin' Rebels to reel them back. Kansas at one point led 21-12, but some frigid shooting down the stretch and back-to-back baskets by Patrick McCaw helped UNLV forge a 33-29 halftime lead.
Kansas scored the first seven points of the second half to regain control, but Rice's team refused to crack amid the roaring din of Allen Fieldhouse.
Wood, the Runnin' Rebels' 6-foot-11 sophomore, knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive trips down floor, and Doolin's layup gave them a 51-49 lead midway through the second half.
Wood picked up his third foul and took a seat a moment later, though, and Kansas finally took advantage of his missing paint presence. Mason scored five points during a 14-2 charge, giving the Jayhawks the lead back in what had for a while become a back-and-forth affair.
UNLV made one last run, closing to 63-57 on a foul shot by Kendrick with 5:49 to go. But that's when Mason got creative with his passing, setting up Alexander for a layup and then giving the big freshman forward a nifty pass for a dunk to help put the game away.
"I don't know if we've ever leaned on anybody as much as we've leaned on Frank," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "And the kid does play. He plays great. His line today was ridiculous for us."
The Runnin' Rebels are 7-0 at home this season but 0-3 in true road games. Their other losses are to Arizona State and in their Mountain West opener at Wyoming.
Kansas F Brannen Greene played just 8 minutes while dealing with a sore neck. Self said that Greene told him before the game that he wasn't sure he would be able to play at all.
UNLV: Goodluck Okonoboh had six points, seven rebounds and five blocks. ... The Runnin' Rebels were outscored 19-4 on the fast break and 20-6 off turnovers.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have won 10 of their last 11 games. ... Selden was 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in the first 4 minutes. He had not hit three 3s in a game this season. ... The Jayhawks had 17 offensive rebounds, winning the battle of the boards 45-31.
UNLV: returns to conference play against Nevada on Wednesday night.
Kansas: begins its Big 12 title defense Wednesday night at Baylor.