Kansas escapes "Killer B" in tournament opener
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Bill Self liked the way Kansas started out this NCAA tournament run, if only because his Jayhawks managed to find any way to win.
For the second straight year, Kansas struggled for a half before putting away a 16th-seeded underdog, running away from Boston University 72-53 on Friday night.
Now, the Jayhawks want to put an end to any similarities from last season — and pronto.
Back on Oklahoma soil for a second straight year, they'll again face a No. 9 seed in the second round and on the one-year anniversary of that defeat against fearless Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa.
"I think it's good for your guys to sweat, because there are different pressures in this tournament," Self said after his team expanded its four-point halftime lead. "We were loose, loosey-goosey all that stuff. You get in the locker room and run out there and all of a sudden it feels just a tinge different.
"I really believe it was probably good for us to feel that. And hopefully we'll relax a little bit more and be ready from jump street Sunday."
The top-seeded Jayhawks (33-2) will take on Illinois, which built a 23-point lead in the first half and routed UNLV 73-62 in its Southwest region opener. After that meeting between Bruce Weber and Lon Kruger — the Illini coach from 1997 to 2000 — it'll be another Illinois coaching reunion between Weber and Self, his predecessor.
"It's been such a long time. Both Lon and Bill did tremendous job at Illinois. I respect them. Everywhere they've been they've been very good coaches, there's no doubt," Weber said. "At Illinois, they helped the program.
"I'm just worried about Kansas. That's what I'm really worried about, their players and seeing if we can match up with them."
The other part of the Tulsa bracket will feature two promising young big men — freshman Tristan Thompson of fourth-seeded Texas and Pac-10 player of the year Derrick Williams of No. 5 seed Arizona — in the West region.
Thompson had 17 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks while controlling Summit League player of the year Keith Benson in the Longhorns' 85-81 win against Oakland on Friday.
Williams also had a double-double — with 22 points and 10 rebounds — and blocked a potential tying shot in the closing seconds to seal the Wildcats' 77-75 victory over Memphis.
"If we come out how we did on Sunday, it could be a long night for us," Williams said. "They're a great team, and that's the reason why they were Top 5 at one point in the season. If we don't come to play ... it could be a long night. But I don't plan on that happening."
Texas led by 15 with less than 5 minutes to play before Oakland (25-10) — the second-highest scoring team in the nation — showed its firepower by rallying to get within 80-75 with 1:23 remaining. J'Covan Brown hit two of Texas' five free throws in the closing minute, finishing 12 of 12 from the line for a team-high 21 points.
"It's something we can learn from. No doubt it's something we have to learn from because we're going to be in close games if we play well," coach Rick Barnes said. "But it was really a good win."
For the Jayhawks, the scare came in the first half. After leading Lehigh by just six at halftime in last year's NCAA tournament opener, Kansas was up by only four against Boston University (21-14) this time around.
Twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris went 7 for 9 after halftime, when the Jayhawks shot 62 percent to douse any chances of another "Killer B" loss like those to Bradley and Bucknell — again in Oklahoma — early on in recent tournaments.
Marcus Morris finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, and Markieff had 15 points and eight boards.
Brady Morningstar, Tyshawn Taylor and Marcus Morris all hit 3-pointers in a 71-second span that stretched the lead to 58-43 and finally put Kansas firmly in control.
Now, Marcus Morris says it's time for the Jayhawks to be done with the bad memories they've been "reminded of for so long" — with even their own coaching staff putting stories about the Northern Iowa loss in the players' lockers earlier this week.
"We know what we need to do," he said. "We know what we need to do to stop that from happening, and we've just got to move on."