LAWRENCE — Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris twins are in control now, and if there was any doubt about that entering the season, it disappeared quickly on Friday night during Kansas’ frenetic 113-75 season-opening victory over Longwood.
The Jayhawks’ first ride with the junior class at the wheel went about as expected. Taylor rode the gas pedal all night and had 10 assists. He also had six turnovers. The Morris twins combined for 17 rebounds, but only two came from Marcus. Apparently, the twins settled it before the game even started, when Marcus agreed to box out so that Markieff could get all the rebounds.
“They’ve got some answers,” KU coach Bill Self said with a chuckle. “They’re something else. And they will talk about it tonight so they’ve got their story straight by tomorrow probably.”
Yes, those crazy juniors, who rode in the backseat with Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich on the way to hanging up two Big 12 championship banners, have their license now. How does that make you feel?
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Nervous? Understandable. It’s certainly going to be different. But Self, for his part, seemed like a more relaxed guy after this one than after past early-season blowouts. He knows who has the keys now, and he’s going to have to take the bad with the good.
Self looked at Taylor’s line — he had 17 points to complete a double-double — and didn’t focus on the careless turnovers.
“Tyshawn played great,” Self said. “Especially the first half, he dominated the game. He’s gonna turn it over some. That’s Tyshawn. He’s made some plays where you go, ‘Wow.’ He’s made some plays where you go, ‘Oooh, wowww.’ He’s a ‘wow’ guy, both good and bad.”
And this was just fine with Self, which didn’t seem normal. But then again, there is nothing normal about Taylor.
“He’s so fast,” Self said, almost too giddily.
Hey, everybody likes a Corvette. KU too often last year played like they had traded in for a Cavalier, and that was on way to a 33-win season.
Self has said that this team won’t go 33-3, but there’s a feeling that these Jayhawks could play more than 36 games — if you catch their drift.
“We’re a lot faster than we were the last couple years,” Self said. “We’re comparable to that 2007 and 2008 team. And when we get Josh (Selby) and Elijah (Johnson) out there, we’ll be faster.”
Selby was not playing because he is still waiting to hear a ruling about his amateur status from the NCAA, and Self sat Johnson because of disciplinary reasons he wouldn’t discuss.
Still, on Friday night, Kansas scored more points than it ever had with Self as coach. It also gave up 75 points and allowed Longwood to shoot 45 percent from the field.
But it’s not as if the Jayhawks were lax. KU forced 24 turnovers which turned into 36 points, and outscored Longwood 19-0 in fast-break points. The pace that Taylor set early on benefited everyone, as Marcus Morris had 18 points, Thomas Robinson had 16 points and Markieff Morris had 14 points to complete his double-double.
“That’s how we kind of envisioned us playing from the beginning of the season,” Taylor said. “Tonight we got an opportunity to play fast.”
It could be fast times at Allen Fieldhouse this season, and somehow, the Jayhawks have gotten Self comfortable with the idea. Over time, Taylor and the Morris twins have earned their coach’s trust.
“To me, what was cool was them winning the league when they were freshmen,” Self said, “because they hadn’t become players yet. They were just growing through it.”
Now it’s on them, and for one night, that seemed like a pretty promising adventure.
“We talked about it, you know, our first season without Sherron and Cole,” Markieff Morris said. “We just wanted to assert ourselves. I think we play together really well, being together three years, and we’re gonna get better as the season goes on.”