KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Bill Self must be the unhappiest 9-0 coach in the country.
“We were awful. Let that be your headlines,” Self told reporters after the Jayhawks improved to 9-0 for the second straight year. “Colorado State missed shots. But we didn’t play very good. We as a team have gotten worse over the last two weeks. We’ve got to get a lot better and doing it through practice. That wasn’t very good at all. I’m talking about mentally alert, paying attention to scouting report. That was not very good.”
Markieff Morris had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Elijah Johnson scored six points in a 12-0 run in the second half that put the Jayhawks firmly in control of the Rams (4-3), who were playing outside their home state for the first time all season.
Tyshawn Taylor, who also had 12 points, agreed the night would have been much, much worse if Marcus Morris had been injured as bad as it first seemed. After crashing to the floor fighting for a rebound, he was helped into the locker room early in the first half favoring his right leg. As it turned out, the younger half of the Morris twins and Kansas’ leading scorer returned late in the first half and had only a turned ankle.
“Coach said it was pretty bad when I asked,” Taylor said. “But he came back out there and I’m happy. I definitely was worried. He’s a tremendous part of our team.”
Johnson came off the bench and made two 3-pointers after the Rams pulled to 44-39 on a steal and driving layup by Travis Franklin early in the second half.
Marcus Morris blocked two shots in the take-charge run for Kansas. His slam was followed by a 3-pointer from Taylor. The Jayhawks, while not pleasing their coach with effort or focus, cruised the rest of the way and outrebounded the smaller Rams 50-30.
“It looked like things would have been all right, but we just couldn’t get them under control on the glass,” Colorado State coach Tim Miles said. “Kansas did a good job with their length and athleticisim by getting out and pressuring. When we did drive, I thought that their help was pretty good.”
Markieff Morris, who had his third double-double, rebounded a missed free throw and dunked for a 49-39 lead. After Franklin’s bucket made it 59-43, Thomas Robinson missed a foul shot badly, barely hitting rim, but grabbed the rebound and dunked the ball, bringing a roar from the pro-Kansas crowd at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
Andy Ogide had 12 points for Colorado State while Franklin and Dorian Green had 10 each.
The Jayhawks moved to 10-2 at Sprint Center, which is a “neutral” court in name only since it’s only about 40 miles east of the campus and always packed with Kansas fans.
Green, who grew up near the campus in Lawrence but chose to take a scholarship to Colorado State instead of walking on at Kansas, received a big ovation when he was introduced.
“I thought it was a special time when the crowd erupted and everybody was so gracious to him,” Miles said. “He’s a special kid and a really good basketball player. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Marcus Morris wound up with eight points and four rebounds, the first time all year he has failed to score in double figures.
Kansas led by 15 in the first half, taking charge early with a 15-3 run. The Jayhawks hit 10 of 12 free throws in the first half but settled for a 41-34 halftime lead.
It’s finals week at Kansas and the Jayhawks will have what Self promised would be an intense week of practice before playing their next game, at home on Saturday night against USC. That will be the debut of much-heralded freshman point guard Josh Selby, who was made to sit out the first nine games by the NCAA over amateurism issues.
“It won’t be fun (for the players). I’ll have more fun than they will,” Self said. “We will certainly work around the academic schedule. But I do think we’ve got to get better. We’re getting ready to play a team that might be the best defensive team we’ve played all year.”