Morris twins lead Kansas past Texas A&M
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—The Big 12 championship trophy conference officials gave No. 2 Kansas on Wednesday night is staying put for now, practically hiding in the locker room while the Jayhawks get ready for their regular-season finale at No. 22 Missouri on Saturday.
A victory over the Tigers, who are unbeaten at home, would give the title outright to the Jayhawks. But for now, after a gritty, grimy 64-51 victory over No. 24 Texas A&M, they are guaranteed at least a share of their seventh consecutive conference regular-season championship.
“It’s a pretty good accomplishment,” said Brady Morningstar, one of three seniors who were honored in emotional postgame ceremonies. “We still have business to take care of Saturday because we don’t like to share championships. But it’s very exciting to be a part of a streak like this.”
Marcus and Markieff Morris both scored 13 points for the Jayhawks, who went through a miserable shooting stretch in a ragged first half. The victory gave Kansas (28-2, 13-2) a one-game lead over No. 8 Texas with one game left.
Coach Bill Self said he told his players “Good job” for winning a share of the title and left it at that.
“It wasn’t a big deal that we were going to celebrate,” he said. “The game had no rhythm, no nothing. It was a dud game. But I did think we guarded, and we hung in there and you’ve got to win games like that.”
The Aggies (22-7, 9-6) played a slowdown game and were careful not to get in a foot race with the faster Jayhawks. It was much like the strategy employed by Northern Iowa in beating the favored Jayhawks in the second of last season’s NCAA tournament.
“Last year’s team had a game like that in the NCAA tournament and didn’t win it,” Self said. “So hopefully our guys can learn and understand it’s still OK when you don’t play great offense to guard.”
The only season since Self arrived as coach that Kansas did not take home a trophy was his first, when the Jayhawks finished second.
Reed and Morningstar, two of the most popular Kansas players in recent years, both played key roles in the Jayhawks’ 27th straight Senior Night win.
Reed had 12 points and Morningstar added nine and both played significant roles as the Jayhawks pulled away in the second half.
David Loubeau had 14 points for the Aggies, who dropped into a third-place tie in the league with Kansas State.
“We just didn’t play smart in a couple stretches, and a team like Kansas will make you pay,” A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “There’s really no easy way to guard KU. We just tried to change it up, whether it was ball screen defense or how we were guarding the post. I thought the refs let both teams play, and I think that helped us.”
Both teams shot horribly in the first half and the Aggies trailed only 43-41 in the second after Naji Hibbert made a free throw and B.J. Holmes canned a free throw and drilled a 3-pointer.
But Elijah Johnson’s basket gave the Jayhawks a 45-41 lead and got them rolling on a take-charge 13-2 run en route to their 17th win in 18 games against Texas A&M.
Johnson blocked a pass and fed Reed, who was practically tackled under the Kansas basket by Holmes.
Reed made one free throw but the Jayhawks got the rebound and whipped the ball around to get Reed an uncontested 3-pointer from the wing, which he swished.
A moment later, Morningstar hit another 3-pointer and then Marcus Morris dropped in two free throws for a 52-43 lead.
Marcus Morris hit two free throws, his brother worked inside for another basket, and the Jayhawks suddenly had a seemingly comfortable 56-43 lead.
Self called a timeout after Loubeau made two straight baskets, and the Jayhawks scored five quick points on Markieff’s dunk and Marcus’ jumper for a 60-47 lead with 3:04 to play.
Tyshawn Taylor, back from a two-game suspension for violation of unspecified team rules, also had nine points.
Holmes had 10 points for the Aggies and Khris Middleton added nine.
The Jayhawks, who entered the game leading the nation with a 52.3 shooting percentage, missed 14 of their first 18 shots and had to heat up in the final 5 minutes to take a 29-24 halftime lead. They shot 45 percent for the game.