Kansas overcomes slow start to rout Texas Tech
Marcus Morris has heard the same things almost since the day he
arrived at Kansas: you're too soft, you're not competing, you're
not playing hard enough. It wasn't just the coaches, either.
Teammates, even friends and family were getting on him and his twin
More and more, it seems he's listening.
Active and aggressive for the second straight game, Morris had 20 points and eight rebounds to help No. 3 Kansas overcome a sloppy start for an 89-63 rout of Texas Tech on Saturday.
"They said I wasn't playing hard, I wasn't competing,'' said Morris, who had five offensive rebounds. "I made it my goal to come out and play as hard as I can.''
Kansas (16-1, 2-0 Big 12) wasn't sharp at the start of its conference home opener, flinging passes and airballs all over the building. The Jayhawks straightened out just before halftime, working the ball inside to start the rout and extend their nation-best home winning streak to 52 straight.
Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich had 14 points each and Kansas dominated inside in the first half, outscoring the Red Raiders 16-4 in the paint to build a commanding lead.
Morris was the catalyst.
He went into a bit of a funk following an emotional hometown win over Temple on Jan. 6, scoring a total of six points against Cornell and Tennessee. Morris responded to the chiding by coaches and teammates with 19 points against Nebraska and had 11 by halftime against Texas Tech.
"He has responded,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He has played very, very well the past couple of games.''
Texas Tech (12-5, 0-3) hadn't won at Allen Fieldhouse in 10 previous trips and never stood much of a chance at ending the futility.
The Red Raiders, who lost by 58 points here two years ago, trailed by 24 after an abysmal offensive first half and never recovered to open conference play with three straight losses for the first time since an 0-9 start in 1999-2000.
John Roberson was the only Texas Tech player in double figures with 16 points and leading scorer Mike Singletary (15.4) went scoreless, took just four shots and had four turnovers with no assists.
"They're at a different level than us and really I think they're probably at a different level than most teams in this league,'' Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "Every once in a while special teams come along.''
It was ugly early for both teams.
Kansas hounded Texas Tech, making every possession feel like a boot camp obstacle course.
The Red Raiders labored against the Jayhawks' pressure, struggling to complete passes, much less find shots. Texas Tech shot 5 of 24 in the first half, hitting one field goal during one 12-minute span, and many of its 14 turnovers came on passes that had no chance of being completed.
"We kind of lost our minds and just didn't play well offensively at all in the first half,'' Knight said.
Kansas wasn't much better, at least for a little while. The Jayhawks were inefficient and sloppy, often following a Texas Tech turnover with an even uglier one of their own.
An exasperated Self spent a good portion of the first half trying to find someone who could throw the ball to the right team, rotating in 10 players, including one four-man substitution after point guard Tyshawn Taylor fired a pass to no one that ricocheted off the scorer's table.
Kansas shook off its funk by going inside.
Markieff Morris got it started, scoring on a putback then a post-up. Marcus Morris added a post move of his own and Thomas Robinson followed with a basket on a hard drive.
The inside opened up the outside, leading to consecutive 3-pointers by Brady Morningstar and Henry that kicked off a half-closing 13-2 run. Marcus Morris capped it with tomahawk dunk on the break to put Kansas up 42-18.
The Jayhawks squelched any thought of a comeback, getting two putbacks by Marcus Morris and a how'd-he-get-that-high rebound slam by Henry over three players that made it 54-24.
The big cushion allowed Kansas to suffer through a string of defensive breakdowns that led to a 12-0 run by Texas Tech that cut the lead to 56-38 with 11 1/2 minutes left. The Red Raiders never got closer.
"Our bigs are such good scorers, the guards have to help out on them and that gives the shooters extra room,'' Morningstar said. "Our bigs open up a lot of things for us.''