AMES, Iowa (AP)—Marcus Morris responded to the toughest road environment that third-ranked Kansas had faced all year with the best game of his career.
His brother Markieff wasn’t too bad, either.
Marcus Morris had career highs with 33 points and 13 rebounds, Markieff Morris added 17 points and 11 boards and the Jayhawks held off Iowa State 84-79 to win their 20th straight conference opener.
Josh Selby added 14 points for the Jayhawks (16-0, 1-0 Big 12), who never trailed in picking up their 11th straight win over the Cyclones.
The Morris twins finished with 50 rebounds and 24 rebounds, consistently attacking Iowa State’s thin front line and finishing it off down the stretch.
Marcus Morris drilled an open jumper to put the Jayhawks ahead by seven with 1:55 to go, and Markieff Morris followed with a putback that made it 78-69 with just over a minute left.
“I thought they were both great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But Marcus was spectacular.”
Diante Garrett had 27 points, Jamie Vanderbeken added 19 and Jake Anderson 16 for Iowa State (13-4, 0-2 Big 12), which shot just 9 of 32 from 3-point range and was outscored in the paint 42-26.
Though the Cyclones never led, they threatened the Jayhawks on several occasions before falling short.
Iowa State cut Kansas’ lead to 48-47 on Vanderbeken’s 3, but Brady Morningstar grabbed a loose ball at midcourt and found Selby for a 25-footer from the wing.
That set Kansas on a key run, as Markieff Morris then had a quick dunk, Marcus Morris caught the Cyclones napping for a putback and Tyrel Reed’s 3 pushed the Jayhawks back up by double digits, 59-49, with 12:32 left.
“That was a big play. That was a poor play that we end up getting three points out of,” Self said.
Iowa State wouldn’t go away, pulling to 68-65 before two more buckets by the Morris twins gave Kansas a little breathing room.
“Being active and being in the right place at the right time,” Marcus Morris said about his career night. “My teammates responded to me when I was open down low.”
Kansas held Iowa State to four points for seven minutes down the stretch, which gave it just enough to push aside the upset-minded Cyclones.
Kansas senior Mario Little, who missed six games after being charged in a fight, finished with eight points in 19 minutes.
Iowa State hung around enough early to close to 26-24 midway through the first half. But Kansas’s constant defensive pressure got the Cyclones out of sync, and the Jayhawks rattled off 13 quick points to jump ahead 37-24 late in the first half.
Iowa State, aided by Kansas’s shoddy 9-of-16 free throw shooting, crept to 40-34 by the break.
“It just kept going back and forth,” Garrett said. “We couldn’t get that lead.”
Kansas has had a few close calls this season, barely escaping UCLA at home, 77-76 on Dec. 2, and beating USC by 2 two weeks later. Michigan pushed the Jayhawks to overtime in Ann Arbor on Sunday before they escaped with a 67-60 win.
The Cyclones made the Jayhawks sweat this one out at times—as Northern Iowa did in handing the Jayhawks their last loss 10 months ago—but they simply had no answer for Kansas’ depth or the Morris twins.
“They are beasts,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “They can shoot, they are physical when they get to the line and they have really done a good job with their post moves.”
Iowa State’s 13-2 start was its best since 2000-01, but Kansas was the first ranked team the Cyclones had faced—and they went all out with the rival Jayhawks in town.
They waited until Wednesday night to unveil a statue of former coach Johnny Orr outside of a sports-bar themed area for donors at Hilton Coliseum. Orr, who Hoiberg from 1991-95 and is credited with creating the “Hilton Magic” atmosphere Hoiberg is trying to bring back as coach, was honored at center court to raucous cheers before the game.
It wasn’t enough against the vaunted Jayhawks, who won their seventh straight in Ames. But Self, who was among the coaches who picked Iowa State last in the league’s preseason poll, said they now look like a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team.
“Fred has just done a great job of giving these guys confidence,” Self said. “They’re going to beat a lot of people up here.”