Big second half helps No. 13 Kansas defeat New Mexico
Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Joel Embiid scored a career-high 18 points and keyed a pair of big second-half runs that propelled No. 13 Kansas to an 80-63 victory over New Mexico at the Sprint Center.
The Jayhawks (7-3) were coming off back-to-back road losses to Colorado and Florida, but got back on track behind big efforts from Embiid and Perry Ellis, who had a game-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and added nine rebounds. Embiid tallied 16 of his points after halftime.
Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams each finished with 24 points for the Lobos (7-2), who shot just 27.3 percent (6-for-22) in the second half en route to having a four-game win streak halted.
"They came out to play in the second half and I don't think we did," New Mexico head coach Craig Neal remarked. "I kept telling them at halftime when we went in we need to stop, score, stop and score to get right where we want to be. But Kansas did that to us."
Kansas owned a slim 41-40 edge early in the second half until Ellis and Embiid led a 14-2 run to create some distance. The two dropped in seven points apiece during the surge, with Ellis' layup off a Wayne Selden feed putting the Jayhawks up 55-42 with under 13 1/2 minutes left.
"We knew we had to come and be ready to play in the second half," said Embiid. "We had to get a run and put the game away."
New Mexico netted six straight points later on to cut the deficit to 60-54 midway through the final frame, and Williams was fouled by Andrew Wiggins while burying a deep triple shortly afterward. He promptly sank the bonus attempt to pull the Lobos within 63-58 with 8:03 remaining.
That was as close as New Mexico would get, as Kansas responded by embarking on a 12-1 tear to put the contest out of reach.
Embiid again had a big hand in the momentum-changing sequence, putting up seven more points as the Jayhawks built a comfortable 75-59 advantage with under three minutes to play.
"[Embiid] and Perry both were great," said Jayhawks head coach Bill Self. "Our bigs were really good today against two bigs who can really play. Perry was the most consistent and scored the most points, but there was a stretch in the second half where Joel looked pretty good."
Behind 16 points from Bairstow and 12 from Williams, the Lobos were able to hang right with the Jayhawks all throughout a tightly-contested opening half that contained six lead changes and saw neither team ahead by more than six points.
Wiggins tipped in teammate Naadir Tharpe's miss with 1:16 to go in the period to snap a 34-34 tie, then later hit two free throws to put Kansas ahead by a 39-36 score in the closing seconds. New Mexico trailed by just one at intermission, though, after Arthur Edwards' second-chance bucket just prior to the buzzer.
Wiggins recorded 11 points but went only 3-of-11 from the field ... Embiid's previous career high was 16 points, which the freshman center posted against Iona on Nov. 19 ... The teams were meeting for the first time since a 59-40 KU win in Lawrence on Dec. 3, 1964 ... New Mexico finished 25-of-29 from the foul line but made good on just 2-of-14 attempts from 3-point range ... Kansas improved to 23-4 all-time at the Sprint Center, which includes victories in the 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Big 12 Tournament Championship.
12/14 22:44:41 ET