Perry Ellis scored 21 points, freshman Joel Embiid had 16 points and 13 rebounds in a breakout performance, and No. 2 Kansas used a big late run to bury Iona 86-66 on Tuesday night.
Andrew Wiggins added 13 points and Naadir Tharpe had 10 assists for the Jayhawks (3-0), who got off to a sluggish start after their high-profile triumph over Duke last week.
The Gaels (1-2), using a maddening 2-2-1 zone and pouring in 3-pointers, managed to hang within single digits until midway through the second half. That's when Kansas went on a 19-4 surge fueled by its freshmen to finally put the game away.
A.J. English scored 21 points for Iona, and David Laury added 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. Sean Armand added 14 points, hitting three 3-pointers to move within three of matching the school's career record of 263.
While the Gaels shot the ball well, they had no answer inside for Ellis and Embiid.
The 6-foot-8 Ellis scored on a variety of nifty spin moves and soft floaters in the lane, while Embiid — a 7-footer from Cameroon who's only been playing hoops for a few years — used his massive size advantage to go 7 for 7 from the field.
Still, one of the hallmarks of the Jayhawks under Bill Self has been their stingy, in-your-shorts defense, the kind that frustrates opponents into silly turnovers and stupid shots.
It's been missing so far this season.
After allowing the Blue Devils to shoot better than 50 percent last week in Chicago, Kansas allowed the Gaels to get hot from the floor. They pumped in six 3-pointers in the first half and shot 45 percent from the field in closing within 41-36 at the break.
In fact, the Jayhawks might have found themselves behind to the MAAC school if not for the play of Ellis, who was 6 of 8 from the field and scored 13 points in the opening half.
The Gaels kept within striking distance with their perimeter shooting early in the second half, much to the chagrin of Self, who kept burning timeouts. But once the outside shots stopped dropping, the Jayhawks were able to start running — and use their superior athleticism.
Tharpe served as the conductor orchestrating the Kansas offense, delivering crisp passes to set up easy baskets. The sophomore guard threw a pretty alley-oop pass to Wiggins to start the second half, and then tossed up another to Embiid on the next possession.
Kansas finally buried the Gaels with its big run later in the half. Embiid and Ellis did most of the work, but the highlight came when Tharpe threw up another lob — this time to 5-foot-11 freshman Frank Mason, who showed enough hops to slam it down.
By the time Wayne Selden, another of the Jayhawks' sensational freshmen, scored on a nifty reverse layup with just over 4 minutes to play, the lead had grown to 80-59.
Selden finished with seven points and five assists.
Kansas put it on cruise the rest of the way, tidying up its 65th straight non-conference win at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks play Towson at their venerable on-campus arena on Friday night before they spend nearly a month away from home.
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