Kansas notebook

Freshman center Joel Embiid emerges as a presence for Jayhawks

Updated: 2013-12-23T16:48:52Z

It may have come a little sooner than expected, but freshman center Joel Embiid is making a bid for major minutes.

Embiid finished with nine points, six rebounds and seven blocks in 21 minutes during KU’s 67-63 victory over Texas-El Paso on Saturday, continuing his rapid early-season development. The seven blocks set a KU freshman record, breaking Nick Collison’s mark of six set in 2000

There wasn’t much for KU coach Bill Self to be happy about after a lackluster performance, but Embiid’s emergence was certainly something.

“I’m speaking honestly about how things have gone,” Self said, “but that’s one guy that’s on a big uptick. There’s no question that he’s got to play more minutes … without fouling.”

Yes, Embiid had four fouls against UTEP, and foul trouble also limited his value in a loss against Villanova on Friday night. Embiid is now averaging 9.1 points per game while leading Kansas with 16 blocks in seven games. On Saturday, all seven of his blocks came in the second half.

“I always just got to jump straight up,” Embiid said, “and try to block it and contest it.”

• Perry Ellis finished with a team-high 19 points and seven rebounds, while hitting seven of eight from the free-throw line.

• UTEP began the game in what looked like a full-out stall offense. UTEP coach Tim Floyd said he wanted to slow the game down, but he also wanted to spread out Kansas and look to drive against what he figured would be an over-eager defense.

First half

Key play: Andrew Wiggins hit a three-pointer in the final minutes of the first half, his first points of the game.

Key stat: Freshman guard Wayne Selden was five of six from the field in the first half.

Second half

Key play: Sophomore forward Perry Ellis hit a basket to give Kansas a 59-44 lead with 2:28 left.

Key stat: Freshman center Joel Embiid had seven blocks in the second half.

| Rustin Dodd, rdodd@kcstar.com

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