Jayhawks tame Tigers, 81-68

New York, NY – On the strength of Thomas Robinson's 10 points and 10 rebounds, as well as Markieff Morris' 16 points and seven rebounds, the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks overcame some careless play to take out the No. 14 Memphis Tigers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

Kansas head coach Bill Self's mission for Thomas Robinson each game is really pretty simple.

"Basically, in his words, to be a beast," the sophomore power forward said. "So that's what I tried to go out there and do tonight."

Consider "Beast Mode" achieved. Behind the strength of Robinson's 10-point, 10-rebound performance, the Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers 81-68 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night - tipping off the 2010 iteration of the Jimmy V Classic in New York City.

One thing reporters and fans have come to count on Self for is an honest assessment of his team's performance following every game. If they're good, the Kansas head man will say so; likewise if they stink.

Tuesday night's post-game was no exception.

"We've got a fun team, but we're wild," Self said. "We've got to harness some of that."

A quick glance at the stat sheet puts the truth to his words. The Jayhawks turned it over an uncharacteristically high 22 times, in their first contest of 2010 with an opponent able to match them athletically.

The matchup started with a bang, when senior shooting guard Tyrel Reed splashed a three pointer from the corner just 13 seconds in - but then the sloppiness started.

A flurry of missed shots, steals and careless turnovers had the score at just 5-4 after the first media timeout. Fortunately for Kansas, Robinson's entry into the game provided an immediate spark, as the sophomore attacked the rim offensively - even if he did miss a dunk or two - and snagged a whopping eight first-half boards.

It's a delicate balance with Robinson, whose boundless energy is perhaps his greatest asset on the court as long as it can be tamed and appropriately directed. Against the Tigers, the talented sophomore found that balance.

"I would say that Thomas was our best performer tonight," Self explained. "I thought he played really well, was smart and under control."

Despite Robinson's efforts on the glass, and despite the outstanding Memphis freshman trio of shooting guard Will Barton, power forward Tarik Black and point guard Joe Jackson combining for just four points at intermission, the Jayhawks maintained a slim two-point lead at halftime, 37-35.

It didn't take long for them to begin to assert themselves in the second half, however, as brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris shook off foul trouble to help push the Kansas lead to 48-39 just four minutes in. Markieff led the Jayhawks in scoring with 16 points, followed closely by Marcus with 14. The duo combined for 15 rebounds and three blocks as well.

Kansas knows what it has in the Twins, however, so the bigger story may have been the play of sophomore Elijah Johnson. The uber-talented reserve point guard came off the bench to score 7 points, dole out three assists, and change the speed of the game with his off-the-charts athleticism.

With highly-touted freshman Josh Selby still serving the nine-game suspension handed down by the NCAA last month, one of the Jayhawks' few areas of weakness thus far has been offensive creativity in the backcourt.

If Johnson can fill that role now, it will make them that much more dangerous when Selby takes the court Dec. 18.

"I feel like it was my most thorough performance," Johnson said. "But every game I've played good there's been something I could improve on."

Junior point guard Tyshawn Taylor also scored in double figures Tuesday night, posting 13 points to go with four assists and, surprisingly given how he has played this season, four turnovers.

Kansas managed to push its lead to 12 by the 10-minute mark of the second half, and though Memphis cut the lead to single-digits on a handful of occasions they never seriously threatened.

With the victory, the Jayhawks move to 8-0 on the season, and head home to prepare for Saturday's contest with Colorado State at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

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