BERKELEY, Calif. | After their first road game of the season, a 78-63 victory over California, one thing is clear about the Kansas Jayhawks: They sure know how to bring a dead arena to life.
KU, leading by 17 points early in the second half, interrupted episode two of the Josh Selby Show and restored what was starting to look like Golden Bear road-kill with a string of boneheaded plays.
Marcus Morris was ejected for a flagrant foul. Haas Pavilion started to rock again after both benches nearly cleared as Cal guard Jorge Gutierrez and KU forward Thomas Robinson battled on the floor for a loose ball. Both players got up, postured as if they wanted to fight and were called for technical fouls. The benches were on the verge of being cleared. During all of this mayhem, Cal ran off 13 points in a row, and the Jayhawks suddenly looked like they had walked into the wrong bear cave.
So, this 11-0 KU team is not a mature one. Odds are, KU coach Bill Self already knew that. But these Jayhawks have a natural way of responding once challenged, and they showed that again on Wednesday night.
No. 3 Kansas answered the Bears’ run with ferocity, matching Cal’s effort on the glass. KU ended the 13-0 run with a Thomas Robinson rebound and put-back, which turned into a 3-point play. Markieff Morris tapped in a miss. Robinson grabbed a loose-ball rebound, poised himself and went up for a one-handed dunk.
The Jayhawks’ athleticism won out over their head-scratching play – after trailing all game in rebounding margin, KU finished with a 40-39 lead – and all appears well as KU gets a week off for the holiday.
Playing the majority of second half to make up for the absence of his brother, Markieff led the Jayhawks with a double-double 21 points and 10 rebounds. Selby and KU guard Tyrel Reed each added 18 points with Reed tallying a career-high.
Self said weeks ago that Selby was about to become the story, and, before the momentary interruption, he was. First, there was the question of just how good Selby can be by the end of his first college basketball season. And then, if he reaches his potential, how much better can he make the group of players that started the season unbeaten and ranked No. 3 without him?
On Wednesday, Self once again did not start Selby. But this time, Self put Selby into the game at the 17:29 mark. Soon, undoubtedly, Self will get it over with and start the kid. Selby knocked down his first shot, a 3-pointer, at the 13:49 mark. At 11:46, he made another, this time fading away, giving KU an 18-11 lead. Selby’s most impressive shot came when he stopped in transition, stepped back and swished a fade-away mid-range jumper.
Selby was joined by Markieff Morris with 13 first-half points, and certainly, Selby’s presence didn’t result in much of a balanced attack. Only two other players scored points with Tyrel Reed and Marcus Morris each adding six. Tyshawn Taylor didn’t score but had four assists.
Kansas could have put the Golden Bears, who couldn’t match its talent, in the first half. Cal turned the ball over 11 times, but KU led just 38-30 because the Jayhawks had eight turnovers of their own.