They were supposed to have growing pains. They were supposed to be excruciating to watch. With this young Kansas team, the 2005-06 Jayhawks were the frame of reference, and that youthful bunch started 4-5 and had sirens going off all throughout Lawrence.
So much for that. In just their third game — their first against a major-conference opponent — the Jayhawks issued an emphatic 73-54 beatdown of the Washington Huskies in the CBE Classic on Monday night at the Sprint Center.
And, really, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. What this team has that the 2005-06 team didn’t is a veteran All-America caliber point guard in junior Sherron Collins and a bonafide big man in sophomore Cole Aldrich. Collins led the Jayhawks with 18 points and 5 assists, controlling the pace of the game all night long. Aldrich went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best forwards in Washington’s Jon Brockman and dominated the interior, blocking 6 shots to go along with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
Collins’ and Aldrich’s tag-team in front of 14,720 mostly partisan fans in Kansas City set up a rematch of the 2003 national championship game tonight against Syracuse, which disposed of Florida 89-83 in the early game on Monday night.
Judging by one night under the bright lights, KU appears to be ready for prime-time a bit earlier than expected. Yes, these Jayhawks, 3-0, are inexperienced as a whole. But it seems that all the four KU freshmen who have made KU coach Bill Self’s eight-man rotation have to do is follow the leaders while they get adjusted to the college game.
The Jayhawks’ rookies were undaunted against the Huskies, 2-2, combining for 31 points. Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor showed why they have already broken into the starting lineup, leading the way with 13 and 10, respectively.
Self had to be happy with the way KU played defense – although the Jayhawks went with a zone look for most of the night instead of their usual man-to-man. KU held Washington to a putrid 29.2-percent clip (19-of-65) from the field.
This game was supposed to be a challenge for all of the Jayhawks but particularly for Aldrich, who has struggled with foul trouble and would have to go against Brockman. But Aldrich more than held his own, limiting Brockman to 7 points on just 2-of-9 shooting. Brockman did end up with 18 rebounds.
The Jayhawks led for most of this one, as Collins scored 7 of the game’s first 9 points. KU played through Collins and Aldrich for most of the night, but two big momentum plays in the first half came from role players Brady Morningstar and Taylor.
Morningstar went to the line for a one-and-one with KU leading 23-16. He missed the front end, but stole the ball from Washington guard Justin Dentmon and converted a three-point play to give the Jayhawks a 26-16 lead.
Washington went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 26-22, and it looked like the Huskies would cut it to two on an Isaiah Thomas layup on the break. But Taylor showed the athleticism his teammates have been talking about all fall, swooping in from behind and swatting Thomas’ shot into the bleachers.
KU then finished the half on a 6-0 run, completed by a Taylor layup as the clock expired.
Self said that he would cut down his rotation, and he did just that, playing Collins, Taylor, Morningstar and Tyrel Reed on the perimeter and Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Quintrell Thomas inside.
The Jayhawks went with a starting lineup of Collins, Taylor, Morningstar, Aldrich and Marcus Morris.