Maybe brawl is too strong a word, but the Kansas Jayhawks had to fight their way to a 78-63 victory Wednesday night against a game Cal Bears team. When the 2010-2011 season opened, few expected the non-conference portion of the schedule to provide many fireworks. Ah, but last night's tilt against Pac 10 player Cal provided a few unexpected moments.
Josh Selby, coming off his historic debut in a KU uniform again showed why he was so highly regarded as a prospect. Selby poured in 18 points, and showed a deft touch from outside. A player named Morris was the leading scorer for KU, but it was Markieff, not Marcus Morris, who dropped 21 on the Golden Bears.
The game was going to be a bruiser from the outset, as the two teams combined for a whopping five points in the first three to four minutes of the opening half. Both teams' players were pushing and shoving, jockeying for rebound position, and contesting each others every move on and off the ball.
What made for interesting viewing from an MMA standpoint was equally as disappointing from a hoops perspective. It was just plain ugly to watch at times for hoops fans. Kansas managed to get through the early jostling, and went into the half leading by eight, 38-30.
The start of the second half proved to be wilder than the first half, as Marcus Morris, Kansas' best player thus far in the season, was ejected for an elbow to the face of Cal's Harper Kamp. Brady Morningstar was issued a technical foul for slapping the ball away from a Cal player during a play stoppage.
Thomas Robinson, who is no doubt the enforcer for KU, was issued a technical foul along with Cal's Jorge Gutierrez. The two were physically separated during the game's most heated moment. The pony-tailed Gutierrez was responding to the flagrant foul Robinson laid on him during the first half of play.
In all, the officials did an adequate job of keeping control of the game. For Kansas, Bill Self will have his hands full in reining the wild streak that runs deep through the Jayhawk roster. These Jayhawks are competitive, and have a mean streak to be sure. The challenge for Self will be to channel that toughness into productive basketball energy.
Tyrel Reed's career high 18 points was overshadowed by the scrums and near fisticuffs. Selby added 18 points and Markieff Morris had a tremendous effort, pacing KU with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
What KU fans can take away from this game is the fact that gone are the years where Jayhawk teams are soft and lack competitive spirit. These kids are tough-minded and do not shy away from tough physical play. Take away, too, the fact that the attitudes must be tempered so that this years team does not depart from being tough-minded into being just plain stupid.