BERKELEY, Calif. — Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t have to think very long or hard about why his players haven’t been able to keep their cool this season when a game becomes as heated as it did during the Jayhawks’ 78-63 win over California on Wednesday night.
“It’s because of the twins,” Self said of junior forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris. “They gotta wake up in my opinion. When it gets chippy, if you’re competitive, you beat them on the scoreboard. You don’t beat them by getting the last word in. We’ve gotta mature.”
And apparently, that maturation needs to start with the Morris twins. Early in the second half, the Jayhawks appeared to be in control, leading 47-32 when Marcus Morris missed an uncontested dunk. On the other end, Cal’s Allen Crabbe hit a three-pointer. At the end of the play, Morris elbowed Cal’s Harper Kamp above the shoulder. Morris was called for a flagrant foul, which resulted in his ejection from the game, two free throws for Kamp (which he made) and a new Cal possession.
“It could have been a nine- or 10-point play,” Self said. “Then you lose your leading scorer. That was about as bad a basketball play as I’ve ever seen.
“The thing that bothers me in basketball is when guys put their own agenda ahead of their team. It’s very selfish. That was obviously what happened there. We knew it was getting chippy. For a player to do that, that was ridiculous.”
Morris did not explain himself to reporters after the game. Markieff Morris, who scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 31 minutes, had to answer for his brother after the game, too.
“We feed off him because he’s our best player,” Markieff said. “I think it was more difficult without him tonight.”
Markieff was told of Self’s assertion that the twins from Philadelphia are the ringleaders of KU’s immaturity, and he did not seem surprised to hear it.
“We play with a lot of emotion,” Markieff said, “and sometimes we play with too much emotion, and Coach tells us that a lot. We just need to calm down at times and not let our emotions get the best of us."
Marcus’ elbow was only the beginning for the Jayhawks, who were in no mood to spread holiday cheer. A minute later, Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez grabbed an offensive rebound and lost control of the ball. KU’s Thomas Robinson went to the floor to take it, and Gutierrez ended up on top of him. A scrum ensued, and both players emerged looking as if they were ready to fight. The team benches nearly cleared, and Robinson and Gutierrez were hit with technical fouls.
The fans in Haas Pavilion booed until their throats hurt, hoping for Robinson — who had an intentional foul earlier in the game — to be ejected. Robinson said that he was punched during the battle for the ball but didn’t know whether it was intentional or not.
“If they want to initiate a physical game,” Robinson said, “I feel very strongly that we’ll end up on the winning side when it comes to that.”
Overall, Robinson appeared unapologetic, saying the Bears had barked up the wrong tree, and he was right. The Jayhawks pulled away easily down the stretch.
One positive to come out of a rowdy night in Berkeley? KU freshman guard Josh Selby was the player who wrapped his arms around Robinson and took him in the opposite direction from Gutierrez — an act as impressive as the 18 points Selby put up in his second game.
“I was doing what a point guard is supposed to do,” Selby said. “Anytime your big man gets in a situation like that, you should pull him away and make sure he keeps his composure. That way you won’t have two players ejected from the game.”
Selby showed leadership that was lacking from senior Brady Morningstar, who was called for a technical foul late in the game for knocking the ball out of a Cal player’s hands during a dead ball.
Certainly, the good tidings of Christmas can’t come soon enough for Kansas, which plays again Dec. 29 against Texas-Arlington at Allen Fieldhouse.
“They’ll get punished,” Self said. “Marcus is going to get punished big time. He wasn’t the only one, with Brady knocking the ball out of a guy’s hand. But on the positive front, that’s the most fun game we played all year. Our guys like that. They just gotta learn how to handle it better.”