Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 82-78 victory over Colorado on Jan. 25, 2011.
Boulder, Colo. Marcus Morris tapped his fist over the initials “LR,” which were sewn right above the American flag on his Kansas University basketball jersey, each and every time he shot a free throw Tuesday night in Coors Events Center.
He hit five charities in six tries, including two with :16.9 seconds remaining in KU’s 82-78 victory over Colorado — all in memory of Lisa Robinson, the mother of KU sophomore Thomas Robinson who died Friday night of an apparent heart attack in Washington, D.C.
“I did it to show respect. I felt I was close to her, too,” said Morris, who scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds as KU (19-1 overall, 4-1 Big 12) claimed its eighth straight victory in Boulder and 16th in a row versus the Buffs (14-7, 3-3). “I’ll do it for her the rest of the year.”
Morris cut short a cell-phone conversation with Robinson to speak with reporters in a hallway 20 minutes after the game. Robinson flew from Lawrence back to D.C. to be with his sister, Jayla Paris, on Monday afternoon.
“He said, ‘Good game, cousin. Way to hold it down, cousin.’ We call each other cousin, even though we are brothers,” Morris said of Robinson.
Morris — he and the Jayhawks will fly charter to D.C. this afternoon in preparation for Thursday morning’s funeral — revealed for the first time Tuesday that he was with Robinson when Robinson fielded the phone call from his 9-year-old sister late Friday night.
The call was to inform Thomas that Lisa Robinson had passed away.
“Me, Kieff (Markieff Morris, six points, 11 boards Tuesday) and T. Rob were sitting in the room. He got a voicemail from his sister. She said to call him, and it was serious. He called back. He said he didn’t want any more bad news (his grandmother died in December and his grandfather a couple of Sundays ago). She told him. He dropped down in tears. He felt he lost a big piece of everything in his life,” Morris said.
The good news is, “He’s getting better,” Marcus Morris said.
Robinson’s spirits were lifted a bit before he headed home. KU coach Bill Self showed him the tribute stitched onto the KU jerseys — the initials LR, in white, enclosed in a black circle.
“He was pretty excited about it,” Self said.
The Jayhawks, who have had heavy hearts, came out energized Tuesday, using a 14-4 run to build a 27-17 lead. KU led by 10 a few times, but never any more than that.
“I don’t think we were the most energized group ever,” Self said. “I do think our attitude was good. Our heads were right. They know Thomas is gonna be OK. They’ll feel better after they go out there tomorrow with him and the funeral Thursday.”
KU guards Josh Selby and Brady Morningstar busted slumps by scoring 15 and 11 the first half as KU built a 43-39 halftime margin.
Morningstar finished with 14 points and Selby, who was slowed by an ankle sprain the second 20 minutes, 17 points.
It marked Morningstar’s first double-digit scoring outing of the season.
“He hadn’t made them in a while. It (shot) definitely looked better. He’s worked awfully hard,” Self said. “And it was good to see Josh be aggressive.”
The Jayhawks led by 10 points with 11 minutes left and six with just :52 to play. But it took six of six free-throw shooting in the final minute (two by Tyshawn Taylor, two by Reed and two by Marcus Morris) to help hold off the Buffs, who were led by Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, who had 25 and 19.
“Free throws were good. At the end of the game, every point counts,” said Marcus Morris, who hopes to hit a lot more the rest of the year — the rest of his life — for Robinson’s mom.
KU will meet Kansas State at 6 p.m. Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.