Published January 13, 2015
Bill Self roared up and down the sideline in front of the Kansas bench, a volcano of emotion threatening to spill onto the court, his unfiltered venom directed at the officiating crew.
Self knew he was going to get called for a technical foul.
He was practically begging for it.
"I acted like an idiot, I know," Self would say later. "They could have popped me a lot earlier and I wouldn't have had to act that way for so long."
That was the closest Self came to admitting he got the technical foul on purpose, but it clearly had the intended effect. The seventh-ranked Jayhawks quickly became energized, rushing past Iowa State for an 88-73 victory in the Big 12 tournament semifinals Friday night.
Perry Ellis scored a career-high 23 points, Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson added 14 points each, and Ben McLemore finished with 10 for top-seeded Kansas (28-5), which advanced to play No. 11 Kansas State — a 68-57 winner over No. 14 Oklahoma State — on Saturday night for the title.
"I thought it was a very emotional game. Both teams, especially Iowa State, they came out of the chute fast, and our guys knew it would be an emotion-filled game," Self said, "and after about the 12-minute mark, we did a great job of playing with emotion and matching their energy."
His technical foul had a lot to do with it.
McLemore had hit a 3-pointer in front of the Iowa State bench and did a little jig to celebrate it, and was hit with a technical of his own. Self took umbrage with the call and spent about five minutes lambasting the three-man officiating crew, finally earning his technical.
"I could have gotten one 10 minutes earlier," Self said. "They told me they were going to give me one, and I'm not a real good listener."
Asked whether Ellis had ever seen his coach more upset, the freshman replied: "I haven't, actually. That was probably the angriest I've seen him."
Self may have disagreed with McLemore's technical, but the freshman seemed to accept it.
"I was celebrating pretty good," he said with a smile, "and the ref tech'ed me up."
Ellis surpassed his previous career high of 15 points set in the Jayhawks' season opener by shooting 10 of 12 from the field against the Cyclones. He also gathered six rebounds as chants of "Perry! Perry!" filled the building in the waning moments of the game.
"He did a great job of finishing dump-downs. Sometimes we got caught out of position," said Georges Niang, who led the Cyclones with 19 points. "We weren't expecting that."
Melvin Ejim added 17 points and Tyrus McGee had 12 for fifth-seeded Iowa State (22-11), which was trying to turn the tables after losing to the Jayhawks twice in overtime this season.
Instead, Kansas won for the 16th time in 17 meetings.
"We came out with great energy, getting out to an eight-point lead early," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said, "and then we got stagnant with the ball, and you can't do that with Kansas."
After their coach picked up his technical foul, the Jayhawks slowly pulled ahead, and a 3-pointer by Travis Releford in the closing seconds of the first half made it 35-31 at the break.
The Cyclones, who rely so heavily on their own 3-pointers, missed their first six from beyond the arc in the second half, and Kansas responded with a 20-8 surge to seize control.
"Coach made me a big believer in the way you go into a locker room affects the way you come out of the locker room," Johnson said.
Withey scored seven points during the Jayhawks' run, and by the time Hoiberg called timeout, the Cyclones trailed 55-39 — the biggest deficit for either team in three games this season.
Iowa State managed to trim the lead to 59-49 on a 3-pointer by Will Clyburn a few minutes later, but Kansas answered with seven quick points, including a 3 by McLemore in front of the Jayhawks' bench — no dancing this time — that again forced Hoiberg to call timeout.
The closest the Cyclones got the rest of the way was nine points, and chants of "Rock! Chalk! Jayhawk! K-U!" filled the Sprint Center, where a record crowd of 19,116 had turned out.
"Our goal was to come win the Big 12 title, no matter who we play," Releford said.
Many fans thought this would settle the score between Kansas and Iowa State after they waged two classic nail-biters during the regular season.
In their first meeting at Allen Fieldhouse, Iowa State led most of the way, only to watch McLemore get hot down the stretch. The freshman finished with 33 points, including a banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that forced overtime in a 97-89 victory.
The return game at Hilton Coliseum last month may have trumped it.
Kansas rallied behind a career-high 39 points from Johnson, including eight in the last 29 seconds of regulation and 12 in overtime, as the Jayhawks emerged with a 108-96 win.
After the game, the Big 12 disciplined two of the game officials for errors that occurred with the game on the line. The league never disclosed the mistakes, but a foul on Kansas was awarded to the wrong player, and a questionable no-call in a charge-block situation — and the subsequent foul on the Cyclones during a loose ball — helped the Jayhawks force overtime.
There was no extra time needed this time.
The Jayhawks made sure of it.