PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — 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.