Lincoln, Neb. Supposedly, size matters in basketball.
OK, so why did Cole Aldrich and Markieff and Marcus Morris, all taller than Nebraska’s tallest player, enter the locker room at the half with a combined two points and zero rebounds?
Because size doesn’t matter if you can’t get measure up anywhere else. Nebraska played harder and smarter basketball at the outset, and if not for a weapon generally viewed as an equalizer for smaller teams, Kansas might have lost a Big 12 game for the first time.
Instead, KU rode the timely three-point shooting of a pair of role players to a 68-62 survival Wednesday night against the Cornhuskers at the Devaney Center.
Brady Morningstar hit a pair of big three-point shots in a nine-point first half, and Tyrel Reed did the same late in his seven-point second half.
Still, it’s not as if the two home-grown guards, Morningstar from Lawrence and Reed from Burlington, felt boastful afterward.
“That was a bone-headed play,” Reed said of his late-game intercepted pass intended for Cole Aldrich. “That was absolutely terrible on my part. I wish I could have that one back. I knew what to do with it. I just got caught in the moment and threw it away. I’m just very fortunate we won the game. I should have just picked it up and dribbled it out. They had to foul us for them to win the game, so there was no reason for us to try to force it and score.”
Morningstar: “We made a lot of dumb plays. Even me. I had two turnovers, just stupid plays. In order to win, you can’t have that. Fortunately, we got away with it and came out on top.”
It was that sort of a night for the Jayhawks (16-4 overall, 5-0 in the Big 12). Pretty it wasn’t, but they escaped with a victory in front of a passionate crowd and a team as relentless as it was short. They shot their way out of what would have been a tough loss.
Every team needs a reliable three-point shooter, especially on nights when the team turns it over 21 times. Kansas has not one, but two players whose main offensive contributions come from long range. Morningstar hit two of three from long distance, and Reed made both of his attempts. On the season, Morningstar hits them at a 46-percent rate, Reed 40 percent and climbing. Kansas doesn’t take as many three-pointers as many teams, but tends to make them count with a 38-percent success rate, the equivalent of a two-point percentage of 57.
On this hectic night, Nebraska made just seven of 24 three-pointers, Kansas five of 10.
“It helps a lot of teams, and it hurts a lot of teams,” Morningstar said of the three-point shot. “Today it helped us out. If I’m open behind the arc, I’m going to shoot the ball. And Tyrel did a good job of hitting the two big-time shots, and that helped us out. ... Tyrel has proven in the past couple games he hits shots when we need him to hit shots.”
Reed on Morningstar: “Brady played excellent in the first half. Without him, we could have been way worse off. Brady’s been playing great defensively as well as offensively.”
Their sure shots no doubt made for a more lively, four-state bus ride back to school.
“Going back to Lawrence happy,” Morningstar said. “I guess.”