KU has "one of those days" but still wins big

Kansas defeats Jackson St., 86-62 this afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.

KU guard Sherron Collins called it “one of those days.”

Shots just wouldn't fall, he said, and KU got off to a lousy start.

“We didn't make shots early in the game,” Collins said.

As for the undersized Tigers out-rebounding the Jayhawks in the first half, Collins explained, “They're tough. They just go. That's something we've got to work on. We gotta get better, soon.”

That, in a nutshell, was the formula for an 86-62 workmanlike Jayhawks win over a Jackson State team that is 1-8 and hasn't played a home game yet this season.

The weirdness of the day started with the introduction of the starting lineups. KU coach Bill Self, who hasn't been at all happy with the toughness of his big men, put his frustration on public display by rewarding senior reserve forward Matt Kleinmann for his hard work in practice and send a message to his other big men by making the big redhead from JoCo a starter in place of frosh Marcus Morris.

Self made the decision to start Kleinmann Friday in practice.

“We gotta get everybody practicing at a pretty high level. I'll leave it at that,” Self said. “Yesterday, I didn't think our three big guys who have a chance to play next to Cole (Aldrich) were performing to their ceiling.”

Kleinmann lasted just three minutes, though, before he blew an assignment and committed a silly foul. He immediately grabbed a seat on the bench and gave way to Morris, who quickly gave way to Quintrell Thomas, who just-as-quickly gave way to Markieff Morris. At one point, foul-prone center Cole Aldrich, who played just 10 minutes in the first half, came out of the game and was replaced by...6-5 sophomore Conner Teahan?

If it weren't for a 17-0 run in the middle of the first half, the Kansas Jayhawks wouldn't have had much to feel good about..

The Tigers, who haven't played a home game this season, jumped out to a quick 10-4 just four minutes and seven seconds into the game. That's when KU launched their big run to take a 21-10 lead when forward Markieff Morris connected on a midrange jumper, thanks to an assist from guard Tyshawn Taylor, with 11:30 left in the period.

Jackson State weathered that storm, however, and went on a 13-2 run of their own to tie the game at 23 with 6:42 left. In fact, Jackson State's De'Suan Dixon made one of two free throws to stake JSU to a 26-25 lead with 4:15 left in the first period. KU bounced back and took a 36-31 lead into the intermission.

Taylor said that Self wasn't particularly frustrated with his team, despite their lackluster first-half play.

“Naw, he didn't really get on us because he knew it was a rough first half and we just weren't making shots.”

Self also acknowledged that Jackson State's defense caused KU problems in the first period.

“They played zone and we had no post guys,” Self explained, succinctly. “We had no post presence. Then you don't make shots and you start pressing. Then we play really, really good. We go on like a 17-0 run, and then we played pretty poorly at the end of the half. Cole takes himself out of the game (with two early fouls). We need the big fella in there to be a target, especially against the zone.”

He wasn't ecstatic about his team's second half performance, but was happier with the way his team started making shots. That meant that KU opened the game up as he second half went on.

The decisive sequence occurred with KU leading, 58-46, with 11:06 left. Guard Brady Morningstar made a three-pointer. Marcus Morris made two free throws and followed it up 40 seconds later with a dunk. Collins hit a three-point shot. Jackson State's only response during that span was De'Suan Dixon's bucket from beyond the arc. The score was 68-49 with 7:34 left. The Tigers wouldn't get closer than 17 the rest of the way.

Guard Tyshawn Taylor took Self's post-New Mexico State words to heart and scored a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.

Taylor said, “That's what (Self) wanted from me, so that was more my focus so I was just looking for my teammates more.”

Collins led the Jayhawks in scoring with 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting.

Aldrich added 13 points and eight boards. Marcus Morris also scored 13, and guard Tyrel Reed knocked down 11 points and grabbed four rebounds.  

KU has the week off and will come back next Saturday to play the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in Kansas City's ritzy Sprint Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. If you don't have tickets, you can watch it on ESPN.