KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Not long ago, Kansas coach Bill Self had an official who calls games all over the country pay his team the ultimate compliment while simultaneously offering a somber warning.
“He said, `When you’re on, you’re as good as anybody,'” Self recalled after watching his team dismantle Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament. “And when you’re off, you really fall off.'”
The top-ranked Jayhawks were decidedly on in their 85-63 quarterfinal victory Thursday.
Perry Ellis scored 21 points and Frank Mason III added 16 as the regular-season champions built a 45-30 halftime lead, then quickly stretched the advantage past 20. Kansas coasted the rest of the way to a semifinal matchup Friday night with No. 22 Baylor, which handled No. 23 Texas earlier in the day.
“They played at a very, very high level,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats (17-16) were led by Justin Edwards, who hit five 3s and had 23 points. But the senior guard didn’t get nearly as much help as he had in a first-round victory over Oklahoma State.
Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson scored 10 apiece, but freshman forward Dean Wade – who had a career-high 20 against the Cowboys – was held to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. Fellow freshman Barry Brown was 1 of 8 from the field and managed only three points in 26 minutes.
“We came into the tournament and got a win right off the bat. Losing to the No. 1 team in the country, I don’t think that’s a bad loss in anyone’s book,” Edwards said.
Kansas State has never beaten Kansas in nine tries in the Big 12 Tournament.
The Jayhawks, potentially playing for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, certainly looked the part before a heavily pro-Kansas crowd. They shot 57 percent from the field, had the edge in rebounding, assists and steals, and protected the ball so well Kansas State never made much of a run.
The few times the Wildcats mounted a charge, Ellis or Mason was there to answer it.
The biggest highlight may have come when Ellis soared for an alley-oop pass and slammed it down midway through the second half, sending the crowd in Sprint Center buzzing and giving Kansas a 55-37 lead.
Edwards kept trying to shoot Kansas State back in the game, but the rest of the Wildcats looked spent from their game against the Cowboys down the stretch. Kansas merely had to protect the basketball in the final minutes to wrap up its 12th consecutive victory.
“There’s no doubt it’s a factor, we played a hard-fought game last night,” Weber said. “It just seemed like we were a step behind everything. They got into transition, got some layups, starting feeling good, and then started to make shots. It made it tough on us, no doubt.
The Wildcats were 11-2 outside the league, the lone losses to North Carolina and Texas A&M, and Weber hopes that’s enough to earn a spot in the NIT. “We had overtime losses, close losses – we just have to wait and see,” he said. “I hope for the senior’s sake, it would be a nice reward for them.”
Kansas forward Cheick Diallo did not play after needing five stitches in his mouth following an incident in practice Wednesday. Diallo, a five-star recruit, has struggled to earn minutes behind the Jayhawks’ bevy of veteran forwards. He hasn’t scored more than two points in a game since January.
Kansas State: Edwards also had 10 rebounds. … The Wildcats shot 38 percent, including 6 of 18 from beyond the arc. … The last time the teams met in the Big 12 Tournament was the 2013 finals.
Kansas: Carlton Bragg had a career-high 12 points. Devonte Graham had 11. Wayne Selden Jr. was held to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. … The Jayhawks improved to 19-1 in their opening game of the conference tournament. … Kansas swept the season series from Kansas State.
Kansas State waits to hear if it is playing in the NIT.
Kansas plays the No. 22 Bears in Friday night’s semifinals.