Another sluggish game for No. 4 Kansas (9-0; 0-0) but another win, this time over Colorado State (4-3; 0-0), 76-55 in Kansas City's Sprint Center. The Jayhawks received scares from Marcus Morris and Elijah Johnson when both players went off with injuries, only to come back and play without any further issues. Now, KU is a week away from its next opponent, USC, but also the arrival of Josh Selby.
It was the perfect setup for a letdown.
Kansas, coming off a big win over No. 14 Memphis, headed to nearby Kansas City for a match up against Colorado State, a weathered team used to playing against elite-level teams and looking to make a statement against a top five team.
"We were awful. Let that be your headlines," said Bill Self. "We didn't play very good. We, as a team, have gotten worse over the last two weeks. We've got to get a lot better and we need to start doing it through practice. That wasn't very good today at all. I'm not talking about just play, I'm talking about being mentally alert and paying attention too. That wasn't very good."
"Maybe guys were playing at such a high level early on and they relaxed, I don't know. That's our job to get it figured out. There's just no energy compared to where it was earlier. We've got 18,000 people here to watch us play and we came out flat. I still like our guys, but to me, it's a situation where individually we're not playing as well."
The first half certainly wasn't pretty. The Jayhawks again faced turnover problems, and three minutes in, Marcus Morris went down with what appeared to be a fairly serious ankle injury. The air was sucked out of the arena the moment Morris hit the floor and didn't return just a short time later, Elijah Johnson headed to the locker room after injuring his shoulder trying to strip a ball away.
"He [Marcus] just turned his ankle," spoke when asked about Marcus Morris' injury. "It was a pretty good sprain; it was great he came back. It doesn't hurt bad enough to miss practice. That's one good thing about him coming back, we know he can practice. He'll be out there."
Despite the lack of energy from the crowd after the rough start, KU fought through the first half down two players, managing a seven point lead after Markieff Morris hit a short jumper from the baseline as time expired.
With his brother out, Markieff Morris played a solid all around game, scoring 12 points and hauling in 11 rebounds.
The Jayhawks had three players in double digits with Tyshawn Taylor scoring 12, and Tyrel Reed chipping in 11, but just 3-of-10 from three point range.
Reed has now scored double-digits in three of his last four games, including 17 against UCLA. Taylor continues to do a fantastic job of leading the Jayhawks from the point guard position, not doing too much and initiating offense for his teammates.
Kansas had balanced scoring, per usual, but didn't hit at nearly the same percentage as they had through the first eight games. KU was 25-of-54 from the field for 46-percent, but held CSU to 28-percent from the field as the Rams hit just 17 of their 60 shot attempts.
Andy Ogide led Colorado State with 12 points, and local star Dorian Green had 10 points, scoring six early in the first half from beyond three-point range. Head Coach Tim Miles spoke about Saturday's game with the media.
"I thought Kansas did a good job with their length and athleticism by getting out and pressuring. When we did drive I thought that their help was pretty good. I thought their defense was just fine. We finally just got down when they punched us after our first two baskets. I thought we started hanging our heads. Finally we got guys out there that got in a rhythm and got some stops. We need to get the rebounding under control. We're small anyway and that's something that we have to deal with. They bothered us inside. Our two inside kids were 1-5 and 4-13. We are usually better than that."
Green, who had plenty of support from family and friends in the stands on Saturday spoke after the game.
"It's frustrating, we didn't play too well in the second half, but it was good to be back. It was a good experience to play a team like that," he said. "It doesn't matter who you are playing, you have to bring it, and we feel like the Mountain West is one of the best conferences in the nation, so this is like a league game. I think in the first half we proved that we could play, and in the second half they just (played more physical) than us and started hitting shots that they weren't hitting in the first half. We also had a poor offensive night for the first time this year. All those things tied together."
With Kansas missing two of its key players, namely Marcus Morris, the Rams were able to keep close by keeping the highly powered offense from getting into any early flow. It was a game turned ugly and slow, a pace that doesn't necessarily mesh well with this version of the Jayhawks who are uber-athletic and like to get up and down the court.
When either of the Morris twins are out of the game for more than their usual breather the Jayhawks have trouble getting into their offensive sets. They struggled as soon as Marcus went out of the game and allowed the Rams to stay close throughout the first half.
In the second half, Kansas tightened up on defense and extended the lead, quickly putting the game out of reach. Marcus Morris scored all eight points and Elijah Johnson helped break the game open with two three-pointers.
Kansas is now 9-0 for the second year in a row and now head into a week of practice and finals before taking on Southern California next Saturday in possibly the most highly anticipated game in some time. Freshman Josh Selby makes his debut after serving a nine game suspension.