LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kansas passed its first challenge of the season with a balanced offense.
After winning their first five games by a national-best average of 40.8 points, the sixth-ranked Jayhawks beat Arizona 87-79 on Saturday night to win the Las Vegas Invitational championship for the second time in in the past five seasons.
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Marcus Morris had 16 points and nine rebounds, while his twin brother Markieff added 15 points for Kansas, which had six players score in double figures.
“I thought I played well,” tournament MVP Marcus Morris said. “I had a couple of good games early in the tourney, but a few players could have got the award. I’m proud of my teammates. They stepped up and made some big shots.”
Derrick Williams had 27 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats (5-1), but he fouled out with 2:27 left in the game and Arizona never got closer than five points after that. He was 2 of 3 from 3-point range and is 7 of 9 from there this season.
“I don’t think anyone would argue (Williams) was the best player on the court,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Arizona is good. It was great to play such a good team in a close game. We didn’t play smart at times, but we started so great. We found out a lot about ourselves in the second half. “
Reserve Thomas Robinson added 14 points and Tyrel Reed had 13 for the Jayhawks (6-0). Marcus Morris played with four fouls over the last 7:13 and did not foul out.
“They’re a balanced team,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “A lot of teams are going to play them tough, but to beat them is a whole different story.”
The game was sort of a home court advantage with the mostly pro-Kansas crowd. This was the second time Kansas won the four-game Invitational, also doing it 2006 when the Jayhawks beat eventual national champion Florida in overtime in the championship game.
Trailing 44-39 at halftime, the Wildcats chipped away and Williams put Marcus Morris on the bench with his fourth foul on a three-point play with 16:11 left, cutting it to 51-47.
“Derrick was the difference on our end,” Miller said. “He was dominant. His performance speaks for itself. He’s one of the best players in the college basketball.”
Arizona took its first lead at 52-51 on a layup by Solomon Hill with 15:07 left. The Wildcats led 60-56 with 9:28 left but Kansas scored the next nine points and never trailed again.
Kyle Fogg added 18 points and Lamont Jones had 11 for the Wildcats, who committed 19 turnovers to Kansas’ 12.
Tyshawn Taylor and Travis Releford both added 10 points for Kansas, which leads the nation in field goal percentage (58.5).
The Jayhawks were 31 of 57 from the field (54 percent), while Arizona was 27 of 60 (45 percent).
Kansas put on a clinic early taking a 31-15 lead with 11:21 left in the first half and shooting over 70 percent. The Jayhawks led throughout the half, but Arizona withstood the early run, and only trailed 44-39 at halftime thanks to Jordin Mayes’ 3-pointer with five seconds left.
“(Kansas) made shots early,” Miller said. “To their credit. It was more their offense than our defense.”
In the half, the Jayhawks shot 18 of 30 from the field (60 percent), while the Wildcats were 13 of 28 (46 percent).
This was the seventh meeting between the schools since 2001. They split the previous six, including the last meeting when the Wildcats won 84-67 on Dec. 23, 2008, in Tucson, Ariz.
This was the Jayhawks’ first of four regular-season games against the Pac-10. They will play UCLA in their next game at Phog Allen Field House on Thursday. They later face USC at home and travel to California next month.