As Kansas coach Bill Self sits down for Thanksgiving dinner, one would have to assume he will be thankful for the collection of talent that he has assembled this season.
Wednesday night, the top-ranked Jayhawks took to the Allen Fieldhouse court to face a credible Oakland squad some have predicted to win the Summit League this year.
The Golden Grizzlies return five starters from last year's 23 win team and boast the preseason conference player of the year, point guard Jonathon Jones, and 6'11" junior center Keith Benson, a potential NBA first round pick.
Benson, who was a roommate of Kansas center Cole Aldrich at last summer's Amare Stoudemire Skills Camp, showed why he came into the game with such hype.
He outplayed Aldrich all night, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Aldrich, on the other hand, had one the more forgettable offensive performances of his Kansas career. He scored just four points, hitting on two of his 10 attempts from the field.
Having your star player completely dominated would lead to big problems for most teams.
Not Kansas. They were cool like pumpkin pie.
The Jayhawks cooked, sliced and smeared gravy all over the Grizzlies before devoured them.
KU used a 13-2 run to put Oakland at arms reach and Marcus Morris' team high 11 points helped Kansas build a 37-22 lead at the half.
Freshman forward Xavier Henry ignited the run with an awesome, high-flying, alley-oop dunk courtesy of Sherron Collins, prompting the crowd to cross their arms to make an "X" in celebration of what's to come from this budding superstar.
Both Henry and Collins had nine points at the break.
Despite seemingly having momentum, the Jayhawks came at flat to start the second half.
Oakland took advantage, cutting the lead down to 39-28 before coach Self called of his "hide-tanning" time outs.
The Jayhawks responded by immediately going on a 14-5 run, extending a comfortable lead that would not be relinquished.
The Jayhawks would cruise to a 89-59 victory.
Marcus Morris displayed his continued improvement and looked like the best player on the court.
He finished the game with a career high 19 points to go with a team high 11 rebounds.
Xavier Henry tied Morris for the team lead with 19 points as both players scored in a variety of ways.
Despite the poor offensive effort, Aldrich finished with nine rebounds and three blocks.
Tyrel Reed had 11 points off the bench and six different Jayhawks made three–point shots.
Coach Self and Jayhawk fans had to be a little satisfied even before sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner.
NOTES: When evaluating talent, the experts look for players who can create "special" plays.
Whether it be off the dribble moves, eye-popping athleticism, fantastic footwork or great anticipation, these are the qualities that separate the best from the best.
In the game with Oakland, Kansas players provided many of these type of plays, from a multitude of the teams roster.
Here's some examples:
Aldrich blocked a shot, to himself, then made a sweet outlet pass to Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor drove the bucket and mad a strong lay-up at full speed while switching hands in mid air with a defender all over him.
Xavier Henry soared like a future dunk champion, twice for massive alley-oop dunks on pin-point passes from crafty veteran Collins.
Reed drove hard to the basket on a fast-break, then made a hesitation move reminiscent of Chris Paul to score.
Elijah Johnson drove hard to the hoop and took it right at the 240 pound Benson. Benson fouled Johnson hard, but Johnson managed to power the ball through the contact for the hoop and the foul. He made the free throw.
6-9 forward Markieff Morris swatted a shot into the third row then later stepped back to drain one from behind the arc.
Freshman forward Thomas Robinson showed great feet catching a pass 12 feet from the basket, faced-up his defender, gave a ball fake and blew by him for a flush.
On his way to a double-double, Marcus Morris scored every way imaginable including turn-around, face-up, step-back, fade-away, behind the arc and at the charity stripe.
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