Kansas starts 2011 with 83-56 win

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas Jayhawks started Sunday evening's game with Miami of Ohio with a frontcourt of Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey. That means they started the game without a frontcourt of Marcus and Markieff Morris.

Robinson a surprise? Not so much. He got his first start in awhile last week against Texas-Arlington and responded with the best game of his brief KU career: 20 points, 10 rebounds.

But Withey?

"It was just a coach's decision," Self said. Twice.

Withey began like a guy who doesn't start very often. He played well, though, once he settled in, collecting six points, four rebounds and a block in 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it only took about four minutes before both Marcus and Markieff were in the game, and they played like young men who wanted their starting spots back. The two combined for 29 first half points and eight rebounds, many of those coming during the last nine minutes of the first half in which Kansas, for all intents and purposes, put Miami away. KU went on a 14-0 run that extended to 22-4, breaking open a 19-11 game.

Markieff finished the game with 20 points and 10 boards, Marcus 18 and five.

Self wouldn't explicitly state his reasons for not starting his two best big men, but he hinted at it pretty strongly when he talked about what he liked in their performance.

"When they're active, they're really good," Self said. "They were really active and they were in a stance and they didn't allow (Miami) guys to block 'em off. I mean, they were really good today. Forget making shots; they played right. They just have to play with a higher gear consistently, and sometimes, I don't think they know they can do that. It's not anything intentional; hopefully they saw today what can happen when they really, really are turned up."

Marcus Morris agreed but saw it from a different perspective. He said Self didn't think he deserved to start because he wasn't bringing it in practice like he should. And he agreed.

"It's just been a rough week of practice," Morris admitted, leaking one of the worst kept secrets in Lawrence. "We [Self and Morris] weren't seein' eye-to-eye on a lot of things. He thought that I didn't deserve to start, and that was the right decision because I didn't think I was giving everything I had, either."

Coming off the bench was a strong motivator for Morris, who missed his second consecutive start. "I thought I had to show him I could play so I could get back into the starting lineup," he said.

Freshman phenom Josh Selby bounced back from a tough two-point outing against UT-Arlington with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists against the Redhawks. That included a stellar four-of-five from behind the three-point line.

"He shot the ball well; he shot it really well, obviously, from beyond the arc," Self said.

The coach liked seeing other components of Selby's game pick up even more.

"I thought Josh played better defensively and rebounding; I mean, he was more of a complete player today."

Marcus Morris and Josh Selby both posterized a pair of Redhawks with first-half dunks that could only be described as "nasty," but the consensus dunk of the night among media as well as the twins and Selby was a breakaway two-on-zero on which Travis Releford caromed the ball off the backboard to a trailing Elijah Johnson, who threw the ball down with great malice and aforethought.

Self was very pleased with his team's work in the first period.

"I thought our energy level was better (than it has been)," he said. "I thought our defensive intensity was a lot better. We went after the ball pretty hard and we dominated the glass, so that was probably the best we've looked this year over a 20-minute period. We weren't great in the second half by any stretch, but the first half, we were pretty good."

Self enjoyed seeing the twins and Selby all show up on the same night. That's how this edition of the Jayhawks should play, he said.

"You've got our three best scorers all scoring the ball. Without question, shot distribution looked more like it should look today. Those three should take the most shots. They were all three, I thought, pretty aggressive today."

KU fans will be treated to hot Jayhawk-on-Kangaroo action this Wednesday. The University of Missouri-Kansas City Angry Marsupials will visit Allen Field House with a scheduled 7 p.m. Tip-off. It will be televised on the Jayhawk Network.

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