Markieff Morris was not overly dejected after getting ejected from Kansas University’s 87-60 rout of Kent State on Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
The refs at least let KU’s freshman forward sit on the bench with his teammates — giving him the opportunity to play the role of cheerleader the final 15 minutes.
“Even though I was kicked out of the game, I was still with my team,” Morris said Tuesday, reflecting on his penalty for retaliating for a forearm shiver to the face delivered from Kent State’s Chris Singletary while the two chased a loose ball.
“I wasn’t down. I just wish I was out there finishing the game out.”
Morris described the turn of events that led to him getting booted from an organized game for the first time in his life.
“I was going for a jump ball, trying to get the jump ball,” Morris said. “Right after they (refs) called ‘jump ball,’ he threw an elbow. I pushed back once he threw the elbow.
“I was surprised he did it,” Morris added of Singletary making contact. “It had been a tough game the whole game. Everybody was going at it. We were just playing basketball. When he did it, it surprised me. My mind took over and retaliated.”
Morris believes he’s learned a valuable lesson heading into today’s 7 p.m. home contest against New Mexico State.
“I shouldn’t have retaliated. I should have let the ref check it out on the monitor, but coach always says don’t back down from anybody,” Morris said. “The guy just hit me for no good reason.
“Coach (Bill Self) yelled at me a couple times. He told me to keep my head and I can’t retaliate like that. I apologized to my team and my coaches for making that decision.”
Replays clearly show Singletary making contact with Morris, but Morris’ response is largely undetected.
“I’m not down on him for retaliating. I didn’t see any retaliation personally. I saw him act like he was going to retaliate but I didn’t see anything ever actually happen,” said Self, who watched KU assistant coach Danny Manning direct Morris back to the bench after an agitated Morris picked himself off the court and glared in the direction of Singletary.
“Guys have to be smart enough to know that the second guy usually gets caught,” Self added. “On things like that, retaliation should be in the course of play — by your play — not by thinking the ‘man’ thing to do is create a fight or anything like that. There’s nothing manly about that. I mean, just show some toughness and refrain from doing it and then whip ’em on the court. During the course of play, there’s opportunities to set hard screens and things like that.”
Morris doesn’t face a one-game suspension tonight because, though his foul was deemed flagrant, it wasn’t part of a fight.
“Coach talked to us about it right after the game. He was telling us anytime anybody does anything to you, you’ve got to keep your head because it could have been a suspension the next game. We don’t need to lose anybody,” said KU freshman power forward Quintrell Thomas. He scored four points and grabbed three boards in nine minutes, getting some additional second-half playing time with Morris out.
“I mean every single game there’s some elbows thrown. You’ve got to choose if you get somebody back,” Thomas added. “If you let it go, obviously it’ll continue. You’ve got to set a tone and let everybody know (you won’t get shoved around).”
Thomas said he was roughed up a bit playing for St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J.
“The way I see it is you play at Kansas. Just like in high school if you play at any school that’s big and supposed to win the game, any team below you will come in with the mindset, ‘All right, we’re going to try to beat ’em up, try to take them out of their mindset,’’’ Thomas noted.
The bottom line is Morris is extra enthused to get back on the court tonight against 2-2 New Mexico State.
“It’s another tough game, but we’ll try to pull this one out, too,” Morris said. “It’s hard,” he added of playing two games in three nights, “but we’ll work hard to get through it.”