No. 1 Kansas 72, Colorado 66

Marcus Morris went up for the shot in overtime and hit the rim.

He grabbed the rebound, but his follow-up also fell short. Again,

he grabbed the board. Again, he missed the shot.

Finally, on his fourth try, Morris put the ball through the hoop

and finished off the Colorado Buffaloes.

“I wish I could have made it the first time, but I kind of got

my stats up a little bit, so that played out well,” Morris

cracked.

That one play epitomized the entire perplexing game for the

top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, who survived a 72-66 thriller at the

Coors Events Center on Wednesday night.

The Jayhawks (21-1, 7-0 Big 12) were just 18 for 38 from the

free throw line and couldn’t shake the Buffaloes (11-11, 2-6) until

the extra period.

Morris, who scored 15 points and pulled down eight boards, got a

chance to pad his stats in overtime by blocking the lane in the

waning seconds of regulation, when Cory Higgins misfired from

several feet beyond the arc with 2 seconds left and the game tied

at 60.

“I think I waited too long,” Higgins acknowledged. “I’d

rather drive the ball. But they switched the screen and I let the

clock get too far down and I ended up with that shot.”

Morris was surprised to see Higgins hesitate and then have to

hurry a long-range shot like that.

“I’m like, ‘Hey, if he wants to hit one from back here, that’s

a shot we’ll lose by,” Morris said. “I mean, that’s a shot I want

him to take instead of drawing contact and I knew they were in the

bonus. So, that’s why I kind of gave him some space. And I think he

fell asleep on the shot clock and had to chuck it.”

Morris said he was exhausted after his put-back on his fourth

try gave Kansas a 67-60 lead in overtime.

“I was done. I gave everything I had on that last play and the

altitude was ridiculous out there. It was hard to catch our

breath,” he said. “It was a tough game. Nothing was going our way

and still nothing was going our way because I was missing right

around the rim.”

But Morris would be called upon one more time.

He stepped to the line with 26 seconds left and Kansas up by

four and calmly sank two free throws, the only ones he hit all

night.

“Heck, he’s 2 for 7. You should make at least two free throws

if you shoot seven, OK?” Kansas coach Bill Self said, chuckling.

“So, I’m not going to give him that much credit.

“But I will tell you this: He made the play of the game. That

was the best basketball play of the game. From a competitive

standpoint, guys are really tired and he goes after his own ball

three or four times and gets the put-back.”

Morris sat out the last 12 minutes of the first half two fouls

and the Buffs entered their locker room trailing 34-28 but owning

the momentum after erasing a 21-8 deficit.

Levi Knutson hit quick consecutive 3-pointers from the right

corner to tie it at 34 and force Kansas to call a timeout less than

90 seconds into the second half. From then on, it was a thrilling

game even though the Buffs would end up losing to Kansas for the

14th straight time.

The Buffs have never beaten a top-ranked team in 13 tries,

including six against Kansas.

The No. 1 team has lost each of the last two weeks, Texas and

Kentucky.

“We didn’t play our best by any stretch, but if you go 18-of-38

from the line and your starting perimeter goes 8-of-26 from the

field and you somehow get a win, then some guys had to make some

plays,” Self said. “But I thought Colorado played great.”

Self was stumped as to why his team, which was second in the Big

12 with a free throw shooting percentage of 78 percent coming in,

could slip to 47 percent on this night.

“We weren’t even close,” he said. “We almost had two air

balls the first half. I don’t know how that happened.”

They’ll search for answers Thursday.

“We’re going to be shooting free throws tomorrow,” sighed

Kansas center Cole Aldrich, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Marcus Relphorde led the Buffs with 18 points and 11 boards. His

two free throws with 56 seconds left in regulation gave the

Buffaloes their first – and only – lead at 60-59, but Sherron

Collins made one of two free throws to tie it with 38 seconds left,

and the Buffs never led again.

“I’m not going to say we played poorly because it doesn’t give

(the Buffaloes) the credit they deserve,” Self said. “We’ll look

back on this as a good win.”

The Buffs and their fans will look back and wonder what might

have been had Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik not decided to sit his

star freshman Alec Burns, who leads Big 12 newcomers with a 16.3

scoring average but is nursing a sprained left knee.

“He was cleared today by the doctors, but he wasn’t 100

percent,” Bzdelik acknowledged. “He is a young, talented guy.

That was my decision from the standpoint that you are not going to

jeopardize anything. I want the risk the next time he steps on the

court to be as minimal as possible.

“He wanted to play, but he understood.”