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12/01/2013 12:55 AM EST
No. 2 Kansas survives, tops UTEP 67-63 in Bahamas
KANSAS 67, UTEP 63

By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) -- Of the six halves Kansas played
on its three-game trip to the Bahamas, Jayhawks coach Bill Self
thought only one of them was any good.

The other five, he thought, were "crappy."

That's the bad news. The good news is his team got two wins
anyway.

Perry Ellis scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, Wayne
Selden Jr. scored 14 and No. 2 Kansas survived a stiff challenge
before beating Texas-El Paso 67-63 on Saturday night in the
third-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Joel Embiid came off the bench to add nine points, seven blocked
shots - all in the second half, and the most in a game by a
Kansas reserve since at least 1995 - and six rebounds.

"We have a long ways to go to become a good basketball team,"
Self said. "And that's not all bad, either. We rarely have great
teams in November. But we're not as good as we were 17, 18 days
ago. So that's a little frustrating that we've gone backwards.
We didn't play well at all over here."

Naadir Tharpe added 11 for the Jayhawks (6-1), who never
trailed. The Jayhawks won despite Andrew Wiggins being held to
six points, nearly 10 below the freshman's season average.

McKenzie Moore scored 15 for UTEP (4-4), including three free
throws with 6.8 seconds remaining to get the Miners within
three. Justin Crosgile scored 14 points and Vince Hunter added
10 the Miners, who held Kansas to 39 percent shooting.

"Let me just say that we got beat by a fine team tonight," UTEP
coach Tim Floyd said. "And they're going to do a lot of things,
I think, in the NCAA tournament this year."

It was the second straight night where Kansas saw a big early
lead, 11-2 against Villanova and 15-2 against UTEP, evaporate
and the game turn into a struggle.

The finish was frantic, with UTEP scoring 13 points in just over
a minute and carving away most of a late 14-point Jayhawk lead,
but Kansas had enough.

Barely, but enough.

And if UTEP had been better from the line, it might have been a
different story - the Miners missed 10 of 24 tries from the
stripe.

"I was real pleased with the effort," Floyd said.

Kansas led by 15 in the second half, and after a series of UTEP
rallies, the Jayhawks were still up by 14 following Ellis'
jumper from the right wing with 2:21 left.

It was 59-45 at that point. It was 18-8 UTEP the rest of the
way, a far cry from how the Miners started the night.

On UTEP's first possession, Floyd - who isn't exactly shy about
going against convention, with his box-and-one and
triangle-and-two defenses on display often in the Bahamas - did
something hardly ever seen anymore, especially at the start of
games.

He stalled, though said afterward that it wasn't a true stall,
just a set with hopes of creating 3-on-2 mismatches or open
drives.

Think the old North Carolina "four corners," or something akin
to it, anyway. That's what the Miners did in the opening
minutes, running an average of 30.1 seconds off the 35-second
shot clock on their first nine possessions. Simple logic, really
- the fewer possessions Kansas had, the fewer chances it would
have to score.

It only sort of worked.

After 5 1/2 minutes, Kansas had only two points.

In that same span, the Miners had zero points.

"It was different ... but I thought we adjusted well," Ellis
said.

The Miners missed their first six shots and didn't get on the
board until 12:35 remained in the half, a drive by C.J. Cooper
snapping an 0 for 6 start by UTEP and cutting Kansas' lead to
7-2. By the time UTEP scored again, Kansas had already pushed
the lead out to 15-2, running off eight straight. And along the
way, UTEP ditched the ploy and just started playing.

That's when it became a game, for really the first time. UTEP
went on an 18-11 spurt, getting within 26-20 late in the half.
Wiggins - who had been scoreless until then - scored six
straight to give Kansas a 12-point lead with 1:30 left, and
Selden's acrobatic drive gave the Jayhawks a 34-25 lead at the
break.

But UTEP hung around, all the way to the end.

"We didn't want to leave here without getting better for the
rest of the season," Hunter said. "I believe we did. I believe
we got better, playing the No. 2 team in the country."

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