Morris Twins lead Kansas to 72-53 victory

TULSA, Okla. – On the strength of stifling second half defense and a combined 31 points from brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris, the Kansas Jayhawks shook off a persistent Boston University squad Friday night - setting up a Sunday match-up with Illinois.

Kansas head coach Bill Self preached the quality of Boston University early and often this week.

He praised their coaching, the speed of their guards and the talent of senior combo forward John Holland – the America East Conference player of the year.

Jayhawks fans probably smiled a little, and passed it off as coach speak. After all, their team had just throttled Texas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game and the Terriers were a mere 16 seed. No problem, right?

By halftime of Friday's match-up with the Terriers, with Kansas clinging to a mere 33-29 lead, those same fans were likely beginning to see his point.

"I'd say 'difficult,' maybe," Self said afterward, when asked to describe his team's first half. "We didn't play that well the first half, in large part because they played great. Second half I thought we played really well, and were able to grind out a win."

Like many teams outmatched by the Jayhawks athletically, Boston entered the contest with the intention of slowing the pace as much as possible, soaking up shot clock and muddying things up with physical defense, particularly in the paint.

For 20 minutes, the game plan worked brilliantly. With Kansas uncharacteristically cool from the field (shooting 41.9-percent in the half), the Terriers kept the Jayhawks off the glass and played patient and methodical offensive basketball.

"You just kind of gotta weather the storm in a way," said senior shooting guard Tyrel Reed. "We've played teams before that have done this to us and tried to slow it down, but I think we've got the confidence in each other that we're not going to point fingers, we're just going to keep playing and have confidence in one another to step up and make plays when it's time."

It helped Boston that Holland was white hot in the early-going, despite Self throwing multiple defenders at him, including Brady Morningstar, Travis Releford and Mario Little. The senior scored 15 points before intermission on 6-of-10 shooting.

"He's good and he's athletic," Self said, of Holland. "And he could play for anybody in our league and have great success."

To a degree, the Jayhawks hurt themselves as well. Despite seeming loose and comfortable most of the week, the players didn't deny some butterflies as their NCAA tournament play got underway.

"As much as I would like for us to say that we were loose, that's tournament play," Self said. "If the ball doesn't go in early - and the ball didn't go in early - sometimes it puts a little extra pressure on you."

Fortunately for the heavily-partisan Kansas crowd in attendance, the second half was a different story entirely. Brady Morningstar and Markieff Morris ignited the Jayhawks offensively with 8 and 12 points respectively, and freshman Josh Selby got into the act as well - pushing the KU lead to double digits at the 13:18 mark of the half with a nifty dish to Morningstar on a fast break, and scoring a pair of buckets off of driving layups.

Known for his ability to break down defenders off the dribble as a prep star in Baltimore, that aspect of Selby's game has been largely absent in a freshman season littered with roadblocks.

Afterward, however, the former McDonald's All-American was all smiles.

"I think it makes me become more aggressive and get better than how I've usually been playing," Selby said, of his quality play in the second half. "Because that's what my teammates tell me that they need. It's always good to play good in one of these types of games, because it builds confidence."

Defensively, the Jayhawks were spectacular during the final 20 minutes, holding the BU to just 26.9-percent shooting. Holland, so hot in the first half, was four points in the second on 1-of-9 shooting - something Self attributed largely to the efforts of Morningstar.

By the 7-minute mark the lead was up to 15, and the Terriers' hopes for a comeback were fast dwindling. Two minutes later the margin was at 20, and the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Final score: Kansas 72, Boston 53.

Marcus and Markieff Morris led the Jayhawks in scoring with 16 and 15 points respectively. Morningstar chipped in 13, while Taylor added 10 of his own. The Twins also led Kansas in rebounding - Marcus with 9, Markieff with 8.

Now, with one step on the road to Houston behind them, the Jayhawks feel they will enter Sunday's third round game with Illinois butterfly-free.

"I think we got those first half jitters out of the way, and the second half came out with great energy and enthusiasm," Reed said. "And played good defensively. We've just gotta keep that moving forward."


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