COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Chasing a loose ball, Marcus Morris collided with Marcus Denmon and fell backward. His head hit a courtside table with an audible thud, causing a quiet hush to come over the rowdy Missouri fans.
Morris lay on the court for several minutes, then gingerly walked to locker room amid respectful applause. He returned to finish up a double-double, and the second-ranked Jayhawks went on to beat rival Missouri 77-56 on Saturday.
“I’ve been around him for a while and that’s probably the safest place he can get hit and not get hurt,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Self can joke now. Morris is fine, his team won and the Jayhawks appear to be headed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Kansas (29-2, 15-1 Big 12) responded to Missouri’s initial flurry with a 16-0 run to lead by 16 in the first half, then put together a 20-4 spurt after Morris’ injury to beat Missouri for the eighth time in nine games. The Jayhawks shot 52 percent after a shaky start and will head into next week’s Big 12 tournament one victory from joining Kentucky and North Carolina in the 2,000-win club.
Morris had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Tyshawn Taylor scored all of his 13 points in the second half to go with six assists and five rebounds, and Sherron Collins added 12 points to help Kansas build its case as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
“I think the last few games we’ve been playing really well and now it’s time to see who really steps up and what we can do as a team,” Taylor said. “If we can continue to play how we’ve been playing as a team, the chips will fall into place.”
Missouri (22-9, 10-6) struggled with Kansas’ depth and size inside for the second time this season. Playing without Justin Safford (knee), who had a career-high 19 points against the Jayhawks in January, the Tigers gave up 42 in the paint and were outrebounded 45-28 in their final home game.
Missouri also had a rare unproductive day from its bench (eight points), hit 3 of 22 from 3-point range and had too many lulls in a game of spurts. Kim English had 16 points to lead the defending Big 12 tournament champions.
“It was one of those games where you can’t have too much go wrong and we had some opportunities and just couldn’t cash in on them,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s nothing against our guys. We just couldn’t put it all together.”
The Jayhawks wrapped up their sixth straight Big 12 regular-season title with an emotional win over rival Kansas State on Wednesday night in Collins’ final game at Allen Fieldhouse.
That left the Jayhawks with two days to get ready for another rival.
Kansas manhandled Missouri their last meeting, holding the Tigers to 27 percent shooting and grabbing a 56-28 rebounding advantage in an 84-65 rout.
Back at home, where they were 16-1 this season, the Tigers seemed ready for Kansas.
Riding the emotion of Senior Day – J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor and Keith Ramsey were honored before the game – Missouri swarmed the Jayhawks early, getting them to force up shots against pressure and breaking out for easy baskets.
The euphoria didn’t last long.
Working the ball inside, Kansas got six straight points from Markieff Morris, then seven straight from Marcus. The inside success opened up the outside and the Jayhawks started making shots from everywhere.
Collins put the finishing touches on the 16-0 half-closing run, scoring the final eight points to put the Jayhawks up 40-24.
“Guys probably got tired,” said Ramsey, who had eight points and six rebounds in his final home game. “They’re a good team and we knew they were going to make a run. Just not a 16-point run.”
Missouri still had some fight, using its defense to create turnovers and easy shots to open with a 16-4 run, pulling within 44-40 on Tiller’s three-point play on a hard drive.
It got worse for Kansas seconds later when Marcus Morris slammed his head on the table.
But the Jayhawks rallied after seeing their teammate go down, reeling off the second big run that included consecutive 3-pointers by Tyrel Reed. By the time Morris returned with just over 5 minutes left, Kansas was well in control and looking toward bigger goals.
“I’ve been pleased that our guys haven’t gotten ecstatic,” Self said. “We’ve had a couple of big road wins where there’s a little bit of celebrating in the locker room, but for the most part they’ve had a pretty mature approach. Hopefully, we’ve got another gear we can get it in because now’s the time we need it.”