Recap: 16-over-1? Not on Morris' watch
For a good portion of one half, Kansas fans had an ounce of reason to worry that perhaps the Patriot League, the NCAA Tournament, KU and Oklahoma City just don't mix. Once KU grabbed the lead, however, Lehigh did not have defense enough to keep the game within striking distance.
The KU offense decimated the Lehigh defense, converting shots at a 61.6 eFG% mark, grabbing 41.2 percent of the available offensive rebounds and tallying 1.25 points per possession. Thursday night's scoring showing was the Jayhawks' 10th most productive of the season and their best since an explosive March 3 performance that saw KU score 1.30 points per trip. Guards Sherron Collins, Tyrel Reed and Tyshawn Taylor played efficiently in moderate-usage roles and Marcus Morris delivered a career performance. The sophomore forward generated 1.23 points per possession while using a remarkable 34.1 percent of KU's possessions during his minutes. After a slow first half, Xavier Henry ended up with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting and six rebounds.
The reason KU couldn't run away from Lehigh was its middling defensive performance. The Mountain Hawks managed 1.02 points per possession, just better than the national average and much better than KU's opponents' average. Freshman guard C.J. McCollum led Lehigh, emerging from a first-half slumber to finish with 29 points. He used 39 percent of his team's possessions and didn't create a point per possession, but he certainly put his volume scoring skills on display. Big man Zahir Carrington was the only other Mountain Hawk to play at least three minutes and use more than 20 percent of the squad's possessions. He finished with 17 points on the strength of a big first half and 7-for-15 shooting overall.
KU's victory against Lehigh, told in graphical form (via StatSheet.com)
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Marcus Morris did all the good things he has done at times throughout his sophomore year, and he did them all at the same time during a 26-minute, 26-point, 10-rebound explosion. The most promising statistic was Morris' 12-for-15 field goal shooting. With Aldrich serving as KU's defensive enforcer and best defensive rebounder and Morris providing unbridled offense, it seems no team in America can match Kansas down low.
The game seemed easy Thursday night for KU forward Marcus Morris — Nick Krug/LJW Photo
Room For Improvement
KU's defense would have been acceptable against a Big 12 Conference opponent, but Lehigh just isn't supposed to score 74 points on 72 possessions against the Jayhawks. The Mountain Hawks did not do any one thing particularly well, but they avoided the common pitfalls of an overmatched low-major: They kept their turnovers to an average total (18.1 percent of possessions), shot the ball with mediocre accuracy (46.0 eFG%), found the free throw line with decent frequency (33.9 percent Free Throw Rate). Lehigh even remained in the neighborhood of average on the offensive glass, rounding up 32.5 percent of their misses.
Hard Luck Line
Stats-wise, guard Brady Morningstar didn't do much of anything. The Lawrence native made one of five shots and distributed two assists in 17 minutes. Typical Morningstar usage rates combined with atypical inefficiency doesn't usually hurt KU, but his shooting touch would serve KU well for the rest of the tourney.
KU put a scare (or more of a frustration, perhaps) into followers during a sub-par first half but avoided the dreaded 16-over-1 upset by a +0.23 points-per-possession margin. For reference's sake, that's about 0.05 points per possession better than KU's average margin of victory during Big 12 play.