Originally published March 11, 2011 at 12:00a.m., updated March 11, 2011 at 05:00p.m.


Marcus Morris plays like Player of Year



KU vs. Oklahoma State

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Kansas defeated Oklahoma State 63-62 in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

— Shortly before opening tip of Thursday’s Big 12 quarterfinal against Oklahoma State, Kansas University junior forward Marcus Morris received his Big 12 Player of the Year hardware and an ovation from the Sprint Center crowd. It didn’t take him long to show the many reasons nobody else came close to deserving it.

First KU possession, Morris executed his half of a pick-and-roll perfectly and found himself alone for an easy bucket, but Tyrel Reed never looked his way and sent a pass in the opposite direction.

Next time down, Brady Morningstar fed Morris for a dunk. Instead of thumping his chest, barking at the opposition, or otherwise acting as if he hadn’t been there before, he hustled to get back on defense and quickly got a deflection.

Then he picked up a long rebound on a Tyrel Reed miss, took a couple of dribbles and nailed a mid-range jumper.

Next possession, Morris took a couple of dribbles toward the left block, baiting his defender into retreat mode and then executed his signature turn-around jumper. The game was not yet six minutes old and Morris had six points, staking KU to an early three-point lead.

He came ready to play. As the rest of the team showed, this had all the elements for a perfect storm of flat play out of the chute. The No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament already had been locked up. Just two-and-a-half weeks earlier, Kansas had destroyed the Cowboys by 27 points. Early tipoff times sometimes can throw college basketball players’ clocks out of whack.

Not that Morris played mistake-free basketball during the opening stretch — keeping too close an eye on the rest of the floor to see where help might be needed resulted in him losing his man on a cut to the hoop, plus he put up a long shot too early in the clock — but he did stand out by not looking as if he left his energy in the locker room.

Mario Little’s key plays at crunch time enabled Kansas to avert an embarrassing loss with a 63-62 victory, but if not for Morris having his head in the game in the first half when most of his teammates looked atypically lost, Little might never have had a chance to win it.

KU’s 41-35 halftime deficit could have been so much bigger if not for Morris scoring 12 of his 16 points before intermission. Keeping Kansas close, Morris took his man outside and beat him off the dribble for bucket and got another one with a weak-side offensive board off a Thomas Robinson miss.

In a second half that wasn’t much better for Kansas, Oklahoma State stayed in the game until the end. With KU up 55-54, Morris took the charge and the Oscar, flying to the floor to get the whistle against Matt Pilgrim, the wide-body who doesn’t have nearly as much subtlety to his game as Morris.

Later, at the other end, with the shot clock ready to expire, Morris made himself available for a pass and went up for a three-pointer that gave him his only second-half field goal and a 58-55 lead.

By day’s end, the Big 12 Player of the Year had himself 11 rebounds, nine off the offensive glass.

Trapping the post, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford dared KU’s guards to beat the Cowboys. Despite all the wide-open looks, the normally reliable tandem of Reed and Brady Morningstar couldn’t get shots to drop, combining to going a combined 2-for-14 from long distance on a day Kansas made just five of 25 three-pointers.

It’s such a nice luxury to have on a college basketball team, a power forward who consistently can be counted on to score and do so much more. Morris, as easy to take for granted as 30-victory seasons for Kansas, has scored in double figures in 21 consecutive games, dating all the way back to the first game after his ejection in Berkeley.

Morris had his shot blocked by Markel Brown, who reacted as if he had just won a professional wrestling match, standing over the fallen Morris to bark down at him. Technical foul. As has so often been the case of late, Morris kept his cool and his man lost his.

“One got a technical talking trash,” Morris said. “He was filling the shoes when I get my technical fouls.”

Morris joked about it, which shows he now knows getting the last word is beneath a player with such a mature game.

“That could be a game-changer at any time,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t respond.”

It was far from Morris’ best game of the year, but it wasn’t one of his worst, either. As a team, KU couldn’t have played much worse and still won, which is to Colorado’s disadvantage today. Kansas will play with a sharper edge.

Morris likely again will show why he earned Player of the Year honors.

“I was excited,” Morris said of being presented the award, “but I’d rather hold up a championship trophy than a Player of the Year trophy. I dedicate that to my teammates, and they’ve been with me all year.”

• A previous version of this story was updated.


Jonathan Allison 10 years, 10 months ago

It must have been hard for Marcus to not respond to that kids jawing. After the guy stopped to shout back at Marcus, Marcus just looked up at the ref as though he was just waiting for the technical foul call.

Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 10 months ago

Probably just a typ-o, Keegs, but... does McMorris pick up a charge at 55-54 one possession, then the next possession drain a 3 to make the score 58-55? Where did that extra point for OSU come from?

It was 58-54 after McMorris's 3.

cffighter86 10 years, 10 months ago

you said yourself it was typo... why the hell are you going to complain about it? Get over it.

Jocelyn Kennedy 10 years, 10 months ago

because you expect better from a professional writer - I counted three other obvious grammatical errors - come on?

SaltLakeHawk 10 years, 10 months ago

hahahaha ... "professional writer" ...

9 / 10 times, there are comments below Keegan's articles that surpass the actual article in quality. I can always tell I'm reading a Keegan article (without even reading the by-line) when it's littered with errors and has no flow to it. I've read articles where I was convinced he used the "stream of consciousness" method, with no editting afterwards.

He's just a sloppy journalist, who doesn't show nearly enough respect to the profession, IMO.

WilburNether 10 years, 10 months ago

Good tactics by Travis Ford, reminiscent of the NIU game last year, when they sagged back and dared Collins and Taylor to shoot 3's, which, unfortunately, they did, and clanked, again and again.

One NCAA Tournament game with stinking guard play like yesterday (on both ends of the court), and our season is over. I'm afraid this year might be like '98 all over again, when we had two first-team All-Americans in the frontcourt, and got our heads handed to us by a team with much better and quicker guards.

Gregor Southard 10 years, 10 months ago

OMG we had one bad shooting game--our season is OVER!!!!!!! Thanks for the warning, Wilbur! It's funny, for all the "if we play that way again" games we're still 30-2 and counting. Go find a pacifer, whiners

Jesse Johnson 10 years, 10 months ago

"Next possession, Morris had took a couple of dribbles toward the left block..."

Are you kidding me with this grammar?

PhogAdvisory 10 years, 10 months ago

He probably wrote "had taken" first, then went back to change it and just forgot to take out out the "had." Also: "of a Thomas Robinson miss" should be "off a Thomas Robinson miss." And "subtly" should be "subtlety."

I'm not usually one to nitpick the occasional typo or spelling error, but there were enough in this article that it did sort of bug me. Methinks someone's copy editor missed their morning coffee today. :-)

Otherwise it was a good article. Despite getting pitifully few inside touches the second half, 'Cus played well throughout, and that three he drained at the end of the shot clock late in the game was huge. With the size advantage we've got on Colorado, we'll definitely need him and his brother to bring it today.

Jesse Newell 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the feedback. Most of those should be fixed now.

TopCityHawk 10 years, 10 months ago

I don't think he's kidding. But he should be.

jaybate 10 years, 10 months ago

Dear On Line Editors and Tom,

I know this is a meaningless B12 tournament for KU, but the duty of sound headline writing (and storywriting) never takes a break. You people have been kicking ass on headlines much of the year, rekindling the tradition of pun and double entendre, but accuracy remains paramount in headlines. And Tom finished as strong down the stretch of conference as Self and the Jayhawks did. Your recent performances have been worthy of our respect.

Marcus did not play "like" a POY. Rather, he played "as" the POY that he was. He played up to the award already bestowed upon him.

Keep getting better.

The defense never rests.

Neither do online editors, or sports editors.

Rock Chalk!

KGphoto 10 years, 10 months ago

Would you say they've achieved critical mass?

JJHawq 10 years, 10 months ago

I wish these journalists could sit and critique our work as much as we critique theirs.... Only seems fair.

SaltLakeHawk 10 years, 10 months ago

I wish we were paid to churn out crappy writing. Only seems fair.

AverageCitizen 10 years, 10 months ago

Had I not known any better, I would have thought Marcus' first name was "Morris". Except for the first sentence he was referred to as Morris the entire article. Since there are two Morris players on the squad, and POY is an individual award, it would have been nice for Keegan to distinguish Marcus for this prestigious award. When does one stop lumping the twins together as one person and realize they are separate people with separate skills? Marcus deserves that.

kcglowboy 10 years, 10 months ago

I've criticized Keegan more than a time or two in the past year for what I perceived as shoddy reporting, attempts at writing "cute," and mostly for his "If I ran the world" what-if fantasies (Notre Dame and Arkansas to the Big 12). But jeesh people, all the nitpicking on the boards today is pretty lame. The JW staff has been doing a great job during this, the Most Important Time of the Year in All of Sports. Yes, typos suck, and in a bygone era when newspaper staffs were double what the are now, they would have been unacceptable. But the staff is cranking out a LOT of copy every day, most of it very enlightening. And they're all carrying a much bigger load than any sports staff did a few short, pre-recession years ago. Let's cut 'em some slack and say, simply, Thanks!

Jocelyn Kennedy 10 years, 10 months ago

You know, I really don't think it's asking too much for grammar and spelling to be correct from those who get paid for such work. I am in the medical field - if I made that many errors on one patient - Yikes!!! It's all about professionalism and maybe it doesn't bother you, but I imagine there are lots of youngsters out there looking for jobs that studied hard and would never make such an error if given the chance. Just saying...

bad_dog 10 years, 10 months ago

Yes but unlike a patient, this isn't a matter of life & death is it? Should we expect the best? Certainly. Nevertheless, I'll give Keegs a pass this time.

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