No. 3 Kansas beats Oklahoma to tie for Big 12 lead
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—After making the trip to see another dominant performance by twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris, a throng of Kansas fans stuck around a few minutes longer for one last cheer when Big 12 leader Texas got upset at Colorado.
The Morris twins combined for 42 points and 19 rebounds, leading the third-ranked Jayhawks into a tie for first place in the Big 12 by beating slumping Oklahoma 82-70 on Saturday.
“We still have two tough games to go,” said Marcus Morris, who had 23 points and nine rebounds. “Just because we got that break doesn’t mean it’s over.”
The Jayhawks (27-2, 12-2) shot 57 percent, making more than half of their shots from the field for the 21st time this season, and notched their seventh straight win in the series.
No. 5 Texas (24-5, 12-2) could have clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a win combined with a Jayhawks loss. Instead, the Longhorns squandered a 22-point lead in a 91-89 loss at Colorado and the conference’s two powerhouses are tied with two games to go.
“Every year, we go in wanting to win the Big 12 and win the Big 12 tournament and then have your best opportunity to be a No. 1 seed,” said Tyrel Reed, who scored 11 points. “But we really don’t put too much into it. We don’t think about it that much.
“We’ve got two more games and I guess kind of now the ball’s in our court and we’ve got to take care of business.”
Kansas opened a double-digit lead in the opening 8 minutes and led by at least 10 points for the final 27 minutes but struggled to put away the Sooners (12-16, 4-10), who lost their seventh straight game.
“The circumstances are what they are,” Oklahoma’s Cade Davis said. “We’ve got to battle through them and we have to change that. We have to make sure that we do what we have to do to fight and get back out of it.”
Davis led Oklahoma with 19 points and Andrew Fitzgerald scored 16. The Sooners were simply no match for the loaded Jayhawks, who lead the nation in shooting at 52 percent and were even hotter early on.
Elijah Johnson, Marcus Morris and Josh Selby all hit 3s during a 13-2 burst that put the Jayhawks up 23-13 and Kansas hit 17 of its first 22 shots to build a 17-point lead in the first half.
“We can’t get down against a team like that because they’re not going to let up,” Davis said.
Oklahoma got within 45-35 on Davis’ layup to start the second half as Kansas finally missed three consecutive shots, but then the Jayhawks pushed the accelerator again.
The Morris twins combined to score the first six points of an 11-0 run that extended Kansas’ lead to 21. Davis converted a three-point play and a four-point play in a span of three possessions, and his three free throws got Oklahoma within 75-64 with 4:24 to play but that’s as close as it got.
The Jayhawks outrebounded Oklahoma 35-16, with the Morris twins grabbing two more than all the Sooners combined. Markieff Morris had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“They just absolutely annihilated us on the boards,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “They’re a great basketball team, but I thought our guys fought throughout the game.”
It was the third straight win for the Jayhawks since an 84-68 blowout loss at Kansas State left them two games behind Texas in the standings, with the Longhorns holding the tiebreaker due to a head-to-head win at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I think the K-State game really opened our eyes up and showed us what we really need to do and that we can’t go into no games just knowing that we’re going to win even though we beat the team the first time,” Marcus Morris said.
“I think that might have been the best thing that could have happened to us by losing that game.”
Kansas got a scare when Johnson headed to the locker room with a neck injury with about 12 1/2 minutes remaining, but coach Bill Self said X-rays showed no damage and he could have played after returning to the bench with 4 1/2 minutes left.
Johnson was starting in place of the suspended Tyshawn Taylor, who missed his second straight game after violating unspecified team rules.
The Jayhawks were outscored the rest of the way after Johnson left, but they never flinched enough to put their lead in jeopardy.
It was the latest scare in a season filled with suspensions, injuries and the tragic sudden death of Thomas Robinson’s mother.
“There’s going to be adversity every step of the way, and we’ve dealt with a lot of different forms of it this year,” Reed said. “You’ve got to try and avoid distractions when you can but when they’re there, you’ve still got to do your job and it’s all business when you’re out on the court.”