Kansas' season opener went about as expected.
The Morris Twins scored in a variety of ways. Weird combinations of Jayhawks saw the floor. Tyshawn Taylor continued to mature. Jeff Withey was really tall. KU head coach Bill Self complained that his team didn't play defense.
Pretty standard stuff, really, in a season opening blowout that was over at halftime.
Kansas jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, but the Longwood University Lancers (student body: 4,800) weathered the initial storm. They chipped away at KU's second five and the lead, cutting it to just five (19-14) over the next four minutes.
In fact, over the first 8 ½ minutes of play, the feisty Lancers out-hustled Kansas, holding a 9-8 rebounding advantage.
Kansas came out of the under-eight media timeout with their starting lineup and put Longwood away by outscoring the Lancers, 35-13, the rest of the half. The Jayhawks led at the intermission, 54-27.
The second half started off as more of the same. The Jayhawks came out of the locker room and went on a 17-6 spurt to make the score 71-33. Thanks for coming by.
Aside from a second-half lapse when Kansas got lazy defensively and Longwood went toe-to-toe with the Jayhawks, Kansas was in control from opening tip to final horn.
Kansas scored 19 fast break points. Forward Marcus Morris credited guard Tyshawn Taylor for setting a fast pace from the start.
Morris said, "Tyshawn plays at a real fast pace. His speed makes the game a lot faster."
As a result of the fast pace, Taylor played very well, collecting 17 points and 10 assists against six turnovers.
"Tyshawn was terrific tonight," Self said.
The coach wasn't overly concerned with the six turnovers.
"He's gonna turn the ball over. That's just Tyshawn. He'll make a plays that makes you say, 'Wow!' (Self smiled), and then he'll make a play that makes you say, 'Wow' (Self shook his head). He's a 'wow' kind of guy."
Self liked the fast pace Taylor set, and that opened up numerous run outs and easy buckets in the post for the Jayhawks. KU scored 60 points in the paint Friday night.
"I just took what the defense gave us," Taylor explained. "I had lots of (passing) lanes. Since the defense was undermanned, it was pretty easy to feed the post."
Marcus Morris was high scorer for KU with 18 points and two blocks. Markieff Morris had his best all-around night as a Jayhawk: 14 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
Even KU's back-up bigs had a nice night. Thomas Robinson had a career-high with 16 points and seven boards.
Jeff Withey continued his road back from surgery by kicking in eight points, three boards and a number of altered shots by the smaller Lancers in 12 minutes. Self joked that Withey had made the mistake of playing well enough that he's lost all his practice excuses.
"Jeff surprised all of us tonight," the coach said. "I didn't know if I was going to play him or just play him a few minutes."
Self smiled. "We've seen what (Withey) can do now. Now when he says he can't run or jump or whatever in practice, we'll know better."
Self was pleased with his team's balance, but not just from a points perspective. When it was pointed out that five Jayhawks scored in double figures and two more scored eight each, he said that's inevitable when you score so many points.
"You score 113, you're gonna have a lot of guys in double figures," Self said.
He looks at it another way.
"We score 113 and no one takes more than 11 shots. That's balance."
As expected, though, Self jumped on the 75 points that the Lancers scored on foreign soil.
"I thought our defense the first half was pretty good, but the second half..." he said. "When you have 27 at halftime, you shouldn't score 75."
Marcus Morris spoke in bigger terms.
"That's too much for another team to come into our house and get," he said.
"We should never let another team get 75 in the Field House," brother Markieff agreed.
Self said defense was a concern as he looks ahead to Monday night's contest against former mid-major darling Valparaiso. Valpo can no longer sneak up on anyone, thanks to boatloads of Horizon League and NCAA tournament success over the years. Self said KU had better bring better defense than they did against Longwood.
"(Valpo is) really good. That's not coach-speak; they're really good," he cautioned. "We haven't locked down anyone yet (this season). They're offense is great, so they probably believe they can score on us."
Also of note:
Guard Elijah Johnson was in street clothes, a "DNP-Coach's Decision" on a night when he probably would have seen meaningful minutes.
"He's been irresponsible in some areas off the court," Self explained, post-game. "I don't know if he'll get those taken care of by Monday, so I wouldn't look for him to play Monday."