Right now, the game isn't supposed to come easily for the Kansas Jayhawks.
The 2010 season is just four games old. Programs across the country are still working out the kinks, regardless of their ranking or talent level. So a little rust isn't just okay, it's expected.
And that's exactly how Tuesday night began for the Jayhawks. At the outset of their effort to win their 63rd straight game at Allen Field House, Kansas was laboring in a big way. The Islanders of Texas A&M – Corpus Christi were active and energetic, dominating the glass early and frustrating Head Coach Bill Self's squad defensively.
But with the score tied at four at the first media timeout, things suddenly coalesced. The Jayhawks turned the defensive intensity up to 11 and, faced with a bounty of fast break opportunities and easy buckets, decided to put on an impromptu airshow by dunking everything in sight.
Halftime score? 42-17. Final score? 82-41.
At times, it looked almost...easy.
"We played pretty well defensively," Self said. "That's what (Texas A&M–CC Head Coach) Perry (Clark) said after the game. We guarded them pretty well. We have improved in that area 50-percent at least since 10 days ago. We have gotten a lot better."
At times the Jayhawks' effort on defense was almost a little baffling. So frustrated were the Islanders that at times they seemed hesitant to even dribble into the paint for fear of having the ball poked loose. Senior guard Brady Morningstar alone registered four steals, and Kansas shook off its early lethargy on the boards to finish with a plus-9 rebounding margin.
Trying to scout them on film is one thing, Clark said. But seeing the Jayhawks' speed and athleticism in person is another animal entirely.
"Coming in, I thought they were one of the most intelligent basketball teams I've seen play this year," he explained. "They are so unselfish, they make the extra pass and they know what they're doing at all times."
Coming out of the under-16 minute media timeout, Kansas immediately got to work, setting up an easy dunk for junior power forward Marcus Morris on an inbounds play. What followed during the next 8 minutes was a 21-7 run that blew the doors off the game for good, fueled by steals, fast breaks and highlight reel jams.
Individually, the real story of the night may have been Thomas Robinson. The sophomore power foward has improved steadily since the start of the season, and emerged as the Jayhawks' leading scorer Tuesday night – pouring in 15 points and gathering 5 rebounds in just 16 minutes of action.
Robinson is the type of player who can bring a drowsy home crowd to its feet with a single play thanks to his explosiveness and athleticism, and he provided perhaps the highlight of the night when he bashed home an alley-oop lob from Tyshawn Taylor on a first-half fast break.
Kansas has now won 63 in a row at home, a new school record, and Robinson said that home crowd – which at times threatened to tear the roof off the old barn Tuesday night with its decibel level – has played a huge role in that success.
"We love this crowd," he said. "I don't see how anyone can come in here and be completely calm. It feels like they are on top of you every second of the game, so I definitely think the crowd had something to do with it."
The second half was more of the same, with evenly distributed scoring, pressure defense and excellent sharing of the basketball. Tyshawn Taylor continued his strong and under control play at the point, scoring 7 points on an efficient 3-of-5 from the floor, dishing out nine assists to just two turnovers.
As a team the Jayhawks turned it over just nine times on the night, while recording 26 assists.
"I think it was just one of those fast-paced game," Taylor said. "The guys were running so I was finding them."
Marcus Morris added 12 points and five rebounds, while his brother Markieff fell one point shy of his third double-double of the season, scoring nine points and grabbing 10 boards.
The Jayhawks will not hit the road after the Thanksgiving holiday, heading to Sin City for the Las Vegas Invitational. They will first take on Ohio University at 7 p.m. Friday night, before taking on the Pac-10's Arizona Wildcats in the late game Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. CST.
Additional notes: With Tuesday's victory, the Jayhawks not only moved to 4-0 on the season, but recorded their 63rd straight win at Allen Field House – a new program record. The game ball was presented to Self and the team after the game.