No. 12 Kansas dispatches Washington State in CBE Classic semifinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas has had only two full practices since a loss last week to Michigan State, the byproduct of a hectic travel schedule and a game squeezed in against Chattanooga.

The Jayhawks sure must have gotten a lot out of those workouts.

Travis Releford had 17 points, Perry Ellis added 12 and No. 12 Kansas finally looked like the Big 12's team to beat while roaring to a 78-41 victory over Washington State on Monday night in the semifinals of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center.

Kansas (3-1) will play Saint Louis in Tuesday night's championship game.

"We did a really good job moving the ball the first half, and of course, we made shots, and everything looks better when you make shots," Kansas coach Bill Self said.

The Jayhawks shot 64 percent from the field in the first half, when they romped their way to a 50-21 lead, and then coasted down the stretch to a stunningly lopsided victory.

The Cougars shot just 29.1 percent from the field, went 4 of 22 from beyond the 3-point line and committed 14 turnovers while dishing out just seven assists.

They didn't attempt a free throw until Brock Motum converted a three-point play with 13 minutes left in the game.

"The plan was to keep them out of the paint as best we could, and to get a hand up on 3-point shooters," Washington State coach Ken Bone said. "We were hoping they weren't confident hitting 3s, but they came out and made 3s, and made free throws and lit us up."

Motum had 14 points for the Cougars (2-2), but he didn't get a whole lot of help. Mike Ladd was 2 for 10 from the field, Dexter Kernich-Drew was 1 for 6, and the team hit only one 3-pointer in the second half as the Jayhawks pushed the lead beyond 40 points.

"We got down big, but we had goals within the team," Motum said. "Never was it too far in the first half, but toward the end of the game it was."

Releford was a big reason why.

The senior has earned a reputation for being a lockdown defender, and was a key piece of the team that advanced to last year's national championship game.

But despite showing scoring ability, he's never become one of the Jayhawks' dependable offensive threats.

He was Monday night, hitting two 3-pointers and finishing 6 of 7 from the field.

"The lid's been on the basket, and then he comes out and drove the ball hard," Self said. "He was probably our best performer throughout the majority of the game."

While the veteran was taking care of his business, the Jayhawks' talented freshman class was doing its part. McLemore followed up a miss by Ellis with a thunderous dunk during their big first half and unveiled a silky-smooth outside jump shot.

McLemore opened the game with a 3-pointer, and added another moments later, as the Jayhawks shredded Bone's zone defense with the kind of perimeter accuracy they've been lacking this season.

"One thing we did better was we ran offense to score in the first half," Self said, "rather than run offense to run it."

Elijah Johnson got into the act on offense with a 3 to give Kansas a 21-6 lead, which forced Bone to call timeout. The Jayhawks ended up starting 8 of 10 from the field, and wound up 5 of 10 from beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes.

Washington State tried to get back into the game behind Motum, last year's Pac-12 scoring leader. He scored six straight to keep the Cougars within 36-21, but the last basket with 6:44 left represented the final points Washington State would score before the break.

Kevin Young made a couple of free throws for Kansas, Releford made a 3-pointer and Ellis got to work inside. He stuck a put-back and twice down the stretch got to the foul line, where he was 6 of 6 in the first half, helping the Jayhawks close it with a 14-0 run.

"They just missed shots," Self said, "but we played scouting report pretty well."

Jeff Withey added a put-back of his own miss to make it 52-21 early in the second half, and Motum finally ended a 10-minute drought for the Cougars with his 3-pointer with 16:40 remaining.

"You know, they got off to a great start and it never really ended," Bone said.