The game started ugly in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Neither team seemed to be hitting their potential. For Memphis and Kansas the game started with sloppy turnovers and in Memphis' case, missed shots. It was ugly on both sides, but Memphis just started uglier.
Kansas slowly built a respectable eight point lead with roughly four minutes to go in the first half and looked like the better team. From that point forward Memphis closed the gap and brought the game to just two points at intermission. Considering the Jayhawks entered the half shooting better than 50% and Memphis below 40%, the Tigers had to feel good.
For Kansas' part Bill Self probably wasn't saying the same. Self's team did a great job on the interior led by Thomas Robinson, they were building a lead and yet they let momentum slip by turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, while lacking focus on the defensive end on occasion.
The start of the second proved critical. Kansas, clearly the more experienced team, came out and did what good teams do kicking things off with a solid 11-4 run. Forcing turnovers, getting easy buckets in the paint and an open three from Tyrel Reed put the lead at nine and the Jayhawks were looking comfortable.
After that, a little back and forth. Kansas get's a lead, Memphis bites into it. Jay Bilas get's an opportunity to talk about Kansas' inability to put teams away, yet Kansas slowly seems to do just that. Plain and simple this one wasn't as pretty as it could have been. Kansas was better than Memphis from the outset, but they let them hang around and keep it to within striking distance.
Perhaps the best way to describe it is uninspiring, yet convincing. Hard to knock a team for doing that against the #14 team in the country. As the season goes and Memphis learns to finish better, they're a team that is athletic and can cause problems, but right now they're clearly young and learning.
Winners on the night for the Jayhawks? Tyshawn Taylor for continuing to play smarter as a point guard. Thomas Robinson for stepping up early and hitting a double double on the night. Marcus Morris for continuing to show his versatility to the tune of 14 points, 8 boards and 5 assists. Good shot selection and conversion. And finally Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed for continuing to stake their claim to minutes with this team by filling the exact roles Kansas needs them to.
Losers? Free throw shooting which is a developing problem. Turnovers and of course empty possessions in general due to lack of focus. And last but not least, ugly starts.
Efficiency is the word. Kansas has it on the offensive end and it's something they can be even better at. Clean up the silly empty possessions and the sky is the limit. Final score in this one 81-68 Kansas.