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Morningstar plays lock-down defense on BU star

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 18, 2011, at 10:06 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 11:01 a.m.

TULSA — John Holland scored eight of Boston University’s first 10 points against Kansas on Friday and had 15 points in the first half. By the end of the night he was just another item on Kansas guard Brady Morningstar’s checklist.

Morningstar conquered Holland, holding him without a second-half basket when Morningstar was in the game, then excelled in several other ways. Morningstar scored 13 points, including a team-high three three-pointers, to go with five rebounds, two assists and a steal as Kansas won its NCAA Tournament opener 72-53.

“I thought he did a really nice job on (Holland),” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Tried to front him in the post and did a pretty good job on him. He made shots. He made a couple bonehead plays throwing it away, trying to hit a home run, but Brady’s dependable. You know what you’re getting with him and certainly he was very, very good on both ends tonight.”

Word of mouth only travels so far, so Morningstar couldn’t have known all about what it takes to slow down Holland, the America East Conference player of the year and the conference’s two-time scoring champion.

The 6-foot-5 swingman taught Morningstar plenty early. Morningstar happened to be the one present when Holland made shots no defender could stop, including two deep three-pointers and a left-handed runner off the backboard from the paint.

They were moves Morningstar had seen on video, but the experience of guarding a player who combines speed and power, physicality and finesse isn’t nearly the same as watching him or reading a scouting report.

“He’s . . . quicker than I thought he was, bigger than I thought he was,” Morningstar said. “I enjoy getting to guard players like that, players of the year in their conference, because if they’re going out there and scoring, I’ve got to lock them down and not let them score.”

The first player to lock down Holland, who finished with a game-high 19 points, was Travis Releford, who forced Holland to take and miss two long three-pointers during a brief stretch midway through the first half.

Marcus Morris also guarded Holland when the Terriers went small and Holland played power forward.

Morningstar got to enjoy the extended success on Holland, though. Holland missed his first eight shots of the second half as he struggled to free himself from Morningstar and took shots on the run or with Morningstar draping him.

“I think a little bit of it was he just wasn’t hitting as tough of shots as he was hitting in the first half,” Morningstar said. “He was hitting some guarded threes and when hit those and they’re contested but they still go in, it’s good ‘D’ but it’s better offense. I think it was a combination in the second half of him not hitting shots and us playing better defense on him.”

And of Holland being worn down.

“I don’t know, I may have gotten a little tired,” Holland said. Maybe forced a couple shots. But they’re really a great team. What can I say? It was a tough game.”

Holland presents a challenge to any defender because of his size and the multiple ways he can score. He was an early factor from the perimeter, but he also frequently took Morningstar to the blocks.

Morningstar stayed in front of Holland in the post and gave him room when Holland had the ball in an effort to prevent Holland’s go-to move, the pull-up jump shot.

“Nothing really unique,” Morningstar said. “He’s a big guy, he’s strong, and when you’re playing on him he cuts backdoor. That’s something that we haven’t really played against all year. Overall, I’m glad I got to guard him.”

Morningstar was most visible for his defense but it was only the start of his contributions. He served as a catalyst for the Jayhawks’ transition and provided his usual reliable long-range shooting. Two of his three-pointers came during KU’s decisive 21-4 run in the second half.

Morningstar said his defense spurred the other facets of his game.

“I think the better defense you play, the more offense comes easier to you,” Morningstar said. “It’s just part of the game. I think the better ‘D’ you play, the easier offense is. That’s just how I feel it is.”

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