Markieff Morris helps KU put loss behind
On a day in which other college basketball giants fell, Kansas University picked itself up, and nobody did a better job of that than the giant of the starting lineup, 6-foot-9 junior Markieff Morris.
He followed his quietest day, Monday in Manhattan, with the loudest one of his career Saturday in leading Kansas to an 89-63 domination of Colorado in Allen Fieldhouse.
Markieff followed his three-point, zero-rebound non-performance in KU’s loss to Kansas State by setting a career scoring high and matching his best rebound output. His 26 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals left the Buffaloes helpless in trying to compete in the paint.
The lively personalities on the roster are part of what makes this team such an easy one to like. Yet, strong, interesting personalities can tend to be led by their emotions instead of their heads. Their focus can drift. The emotional high of claiming the No. 1 spot in the national rankings worked against Kansas in Manhattan, which in turn motivated coach Bill Self to put his team through tough practices all week.
In drubbing Colorado, Kansas didn’t look emotional. The Jayhawks played with robotic efficiency. In talking about the victory afterward, the three players brought to the table didn’t show any signs of euphoria. They looked humbled by the loss earlier in the week, and there was no talk of keeping the No. 1 spot in the national rankings, not an impossibility should Ohio State lose to Purdue today.
The players appeared subdued, even careful to heed the message their coach conveyed all week, the one about letting their performance talk for them.
Another one of coach Bill Self’s consistent mottos, “You practice how you play,” must have taken root during the week as well, especially with Morris.
“He’s been our best player in practice this week, and certainly he played like that today,” Self said.
Nobody knows Morris anywhere close to as well as his twin, Marcus.
“I could tell that he was going to play well, based on the way that he was practicing,” Marcus Morris said. “He was totally dominating in practice, and he was dunking everything around the rim. Like coach said, practice refers to the game, and that’s exactly how he played. He dominated in practice, and he dominated in the game.”
Markieff needed only 10 shots to score 26 points. He made his only three-pointer and hit nine of 12 from the free-throw line. His eight offensive rebounds were a career high. Andre Roberson’s seven total rebounds led the Buffaloes.
“I felt like I was not in the Kansas State game, and I want to make sure to get better every day,” Markieff said. “… I think that as a team we had something to prove this game. It was embarrassing losing to Kansas State, and we do not want to do that again. We just got to get better, and I guess it starts with me.”
That four-word expression, of course, is the best attitude for any player to take: “It starts with me.”
KU’s best chance at dominating this game came on the inside, where CU can’t match KU’s size. First-year Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle captured the darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don’t approach to trying to contain Marcus and Markieff Morris, especially when the guards are shooting well.
“Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar got going, and you have to pick your poison with these guys, especially when you’re undersized like we are,” Boyle said. “Your choice is to double the post, which we tried doing a little bit in the second half, and that didn’t work. They are such good passers and an awfully efficient offensive team.”
The twins pass so well out of double-teams that teams are reluctant to double them. That quality, meshed with how well Kansas spaces the floor and passes, and the versatility of the twins make them so hard to guard.
On this day, it didn’t much matter who received those passes. In the first game all season in which all five starters scored in double figures, the five starters combined to make 11 of 16 three-point shots.
Kansas certainly can’t count on shooting that way all the time. The way Markieff Morris attacked Colorado had nothing to do with shots falling and everything to do with a hungry player committed to putting a bad game behind him.