LAWRENCE — That Marcus Morris is the best player on the Kansas basketball team is not news. An argument could be made that he deserved that designation by the end of last year, too, given the way he put up 20 points a game in the final three games.
Watching Morris, his scoring looks effortless, which is exactly the point. Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, when he scored a team-high 22 points in a 79-44 blasting of Valparaiso, he made it seem like he wasn't trying at all.
"For sure," Marcus said. "I just can't force. I feel like we've got a lot of good players. If you force shots, it won't come. If you find other guys, then that extra pass can always come back. Just me finding them, it notes to those guys that I'm confident in them making shots."
KU coach Bill Self says that Marcus and twin brother Markieff are his team's best passers. Marcus said after the first exhibition game, when he scored 28 points, that he would never want to score 50 because that would mean that he wasn't passing enough.
And in the first 12 minutes against Valparaiso, Marcus got going by assisting on a three-pointer by Travis Releford, a layup by Thomas Robinson and a three by Tyrel Reed. Fifteen of his 22 points came after that, which only confirms Morris' idea that good things will come to those who think of others first.
"Coach has emphasized not letting the ball stick," Marcus said, "getting it moving, because every time we get it moving, we get the shot we want."
Self is always talking about the ball not sticking, and generally, his teams get it. But this team, in two blowout victories to start the season, seems to give naturally.
On Monday, the Jayhawks assisted on 12 of their first 13 field goals, which was impressive considering it was their first chance to play against a zone defense. Valpo played a 2-3 zone that Self said was similar to Baylor's, only without the obscene length that the Bears will show them later in the year. Not surprisingly, Marcus is the perfect player to plop down in the middle of a zone.
"Marcus was terrific tonight," Self said. "He scores 22 points on 12 shots, and then I thought Markieff played really well, too."
And once again, Markieff didn't let Marcus get too far out in front of him. Markieff played just five minutes in the first half due to picking up his second foul and had no points and three rebounds at halftime. He finished with his second double-double of the year, 12 points and 13 rebounds. Marcus also tallied a double-double with 11 rebounds.
This game was supposed to be a test. Self almost wanted it to be, playing the Oral Roberts card with his players — Oral Roberts stunned KU in the second game of the 2006-07 season, winning 78-71 at Allen Fieldhouse. Self's comparison had the Jayhawks talking about how they couldn't let the Crusaders end the nation's longest home-court winning streak, which is now 61 (one short of KU's record of 62, set during Feb. 1993-Dec. 1998).
"He kept saying, 'They're like Oral Roberts,' " Marcus said. "They could come in here and be dangerous and really hang up a lot of points."
The Crusaders hung up 44 with a putrid 27-percent shooting night, and their zone did little to cool the 2-0 Jayhawks, who played efficiently at a different pace than they played in the season-opener.
KU, which had 19 fast-break points against Longwood, only had five against Valpo. The Jayhawks played mostly in the half-court, which allowed natural scorers like Mario Little to show more of their arsenal. Little had nine points on four-of-five shooting in 20 minutes.
"Of all our guys, he's probably labored the most in my opinion over the last couple weeks," Self said. "It's good to see him knock down that first shot. Mario has a knack for getting the ball in the basket."
But after the game, Little was busy talking about Marcus Morris.
"I wasn't surprised when I looked up and he had 22," Little said.
That's how it is with Morris. You look up at the scoreboard, and he has 22. Thing is, Morris scored his last point with 9:55 left. It always seems like he could have more.
"I had no idea when we got them," Self said, speaking of Markieff, too, "that they'd end up being this good."