LAWRENCE — It was the best Kansas had looked all year.
Brady Morningstar played his first minutes of the season and quickly nailed a jumper, Thomas Robinson threw down a ferocious one-handed jam in transition, Tyrel Reed swished two three-pointers and the Jayhawks were on their way to their first blowout of a big-name opponent with a 21-point lead 16 minutes into the game.
By the end of the first half, it was the worst KU had looked all year. Sherron Collins, fresh off coughing up three turnovers in the next four minutes that contributed to a 11-1 Michigan run, got the attention of his team in the locker room at halftime.
"I'll take it," Collins told them.
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Take what? The blame? For an 11-point halftime lead that turned into an 11-point victory, 75-64 over the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 15 in the preseason? Well, it was that kind of day in Allen Fieldhouse, where 16,300 fans saw the best and the worst of the No. 1 team in the land on Saturday.
This was the type of win that can only be experienced at a place like Kansas, where victories are assumed. The Jayhawks, now 10-0, shot 52 percent from the field, held Michigan to 36 percent and left the Fieldhouse feeling like they had really screwed up.
"When you beat a team by 11 and you had a 20-point lead late in the first half, you know we could have played better than what we beat them by," Collins said. "It's a little bit deflating."
The Jayhawks began this one fully inflated, bursting at the seams, so full of hot air they could have been breathing fire. Michigan, which couldn't hope to match Kansas athletically, provided the kerosene by coming out in a man-to-man defense and dearly paid for it. Collins scored the first five points, and 6-foot-8 Marcus Morris embarked on a game-long domination of 6-foot-5 Michigan forward Zack Novak. The old barn was alive, and it wasn't even noon.
"Those first 17 minutes of the game," Morris said, "that's the best (Self) has seen us play all year."
The fun would stop there. Michigan coach John Beilein called for the Wolverines' patented 1-3-1 zone — pop! —and KU's deflation began in earnest. The Jayhawks turned it over four times in the last four minutes and never looked the same again.
"I mount their butt at halftime and try to get them back," Self said, "but still yet I don't think body English or energy was as good coming out. When things weren't going well and the crowd wasn't really into it, I thought we... 'pouted' is not the right word... but I didn't think our body language was near as good as what it should be."
Restless Jayhawks turned into a restless Phog. KU, which turned the ball over just once in the first 16 minutes, gave it away 13 times in the final 24. If the Wolverines had not put up enough bricks to build the proposed Gridiron Club at Memorial Stadium with their three-point shooting — Michigan made 5 of 28 — the Jayhawks may have actually been in some trouble on Saturday.
"I would be very disappointed if they left out of here real ecstatic," Self said. "The whole thing is, you play to win, and that's obviously important. But to go along with that, you play to get better, and we wasted an opportunity in the second half to get better."
The Jayhawks haven't had a chance to learn much from their previous wins. Self suspects that they will learn from this one, and there were certainly some things to take away:
KU center Cole Aldrich is struggling, and it's hard to figure out why. He scored 5 points and took just three shots, missing all of them, and that wasn't really the disconcerting thing.
"I don't know if he did much to really put himself in positions to score today like he should," Self said. "I don't like it. He's a lot better than what he's played."
But thanks to the emergence of Marcus Morris as a dependable scoring option, KU has been able to win without Aldrich's offense. Morris had a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds Saturday.
Lastly, it's clear that Self is rubbing off on his players. They did not appear remotely impressed with themselves.
"I just feel like we didn't play like we could have," Morris said. "Michigan is a good team, but we could have easily beaten Michigan by 20. It's kind of a downer. But we just gotta regroup and move on."