After shrugging off a frigid 32 percent shooting performance from the field in the first half, Bill Self’s Jayhawks rolled to a 71-56 victory behind a game high 16 points from junior guard Sherron Collins, 15 rebounds from freshman forward Markieff Morris and 13 second half points from sophomore center Cole Aldrich.
With a roster featuring loads of newcomers and little in the way of
experience outside of Collins and Aldrich, it wasn’t
surprising to see struggles during the first game of the season. All in
all, Self was happy with his team’s performance and felt like
he learned a lot about his squad and the way they shook off a slow
start and early foul trouble from Aldrich.
“I’m not that discouraged at all,” said
Self. “I thought we played pretty good during the second
half. We’re not exactly near as good a team without Cole
playing at all. We had to play makeshift lineups in the first half and
we didn’t make a shot and we were impatient. There were a lot
of negatives but for the most part we guarded.”
“In the second half we kind of got in our way a little bit
but I thought we played a lot better. I thought we did some good things
in the second half. We had some rookies really step up and play well
After Collins opened the game up with a three pointer, the Jayhawks
failed to convert on another three pointer for the rest of the game.
Not only did their outside shooting leave them, but they struggled to
score the ball in the paint after Aldrich went to the bench with a
second foul just two minutes into the game.
Even though they trailed UMKC by as many as seven during that first
half, a late six point run just before the end of the half allowed
Kansas to get the game tied headed into intermission on a Brady Morningstar bucket just -- the Jayhawks first since the 9:11 mark --
before the half..
“Coach told us to keep playing defense,” said
freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor. “We missed a lot of shots that
we usually make and they made a lot of shots, so we had to keep playing
and grinding it out. I think we knew that because if we
continued playing hard, kept rebounding and getting easy buckets, we
were going to come out with a win eventually.”
Looking much more focused, Kansas continued their run into the second
half and finally took the lead for good when sophomore guard Tyrel Reed
pumped in two of his 12 points with 17:35 remaining.
According to Collins, it was the presence of Aldrich who took early
control of the paint on both ends of the floor combined with a defense
that held the Kangaroos to 29% shooting on the night that was the
difference between the first and second half.
“I think in the first half, we played a little bit
conservative,” said Collins of Aldrich’s impact on
the team. “We got into foul trouble. When Cole came back out,
he gave us a better inside presence. Then we got a few easy buckets and
we got a little bit more confidence and a little bit more energy. The
second half, we came out and pressured a little bit more and got some
One defensive play in particular really looked to have turned momentum
for the Jayhawks. After converting on a tough hoop, Taylor stole the
ensuing inbounds pass and scored again setting off the Allen Fieldhouse
“I was waiting for him to take it out, but he lost
it,” said Taylor who finished with seven points, three
rebounds, two assists and two steals. “It came right to me
and I just laid it up. It seemed like a change of momentum a little
bit. Everybody got hyped, and we started rolling from there.”
In fact, Taylor wasn’t the only freshman who stepped up big
on Sunday night. Markieff Morris was a dominant force on the glass and
reserve wing Travis Releford energized the team and crowd with his
slashing to the bucket and defense.
“Cole’s so tall, and I usually rely on him to get
the rebounds, but today I just had to go get them myself because he was
out a majority of the first half,” said Morris who also
scored seven points and led the team with three assists. “ I
knew I was the other big, so all the coaches told me I needed to go
While Morris cleaned the glass, the six-foot-five inch Releford stole
the Jayhawks extra possessions while playing the final 12 minutes of
the game and scoring six points.
“What Travis needs to do for us is steal us extra
possessions,” said Self of the Kansas City native.
“He actually stole us about three extra possessions tonight
which turned out to be key points.”
With UMKC out of the way, the Jayhawks hit the floor again on Tuesday
night for a duel with Florida Gulf Coast. Prior to the game, the
Jayhawks will unveil their 2008 championship banner and Self hopes that
fans arrive early for the experience.
“At the 12 minute mark (before the game), we’re
going to do the banner, we’re going to stay out there for
that,” said Self. “So, if you want to see it
dropped or raised or whatever you’ve got to get out there
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