KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — When in trouble, dial “M” for Morris.
It works for No. 2 Kansas almost every time.
For one key stretch in the first half Friday night, it was Marcus and Markieff Morris 17, Colorado 4 as the Philadelphia twins almost personally pulled the Jayhawks out of a deep early deficit and led them to a 90-83 victory in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
“We want to play through our bigs,” said Kansas guard Tyrel Reed, who hit two key 3-pointers in the second half. “Marcus and Markieff are our best offensive players. We really weren’t doing anything different. We were running our offense and by doing that we were getting good looks. We also guarded during that time and got some stops.”
Marcus, the younger of the Philadelphia twins by 7 minutes, totaled 20 points and 13 rebounds while Markieff had 20 points and eight boards for the top-seeded Jayhawks (31-2), who sent the Buffaloes off to the Pac-10 by beating them for the 45th time in 46 meetings.
Kansas will play second-seeded and No. 10 Texas in the championship game Saturday.
In a 17-4 Kansas run that turned control of the game over to the Jayhawks, Marcus scored nine points and Markieff eight, including a long 3-pointer that gave Kansas a 27-26 lead and brought a thunderous roar from the partisan crowd.
Alec Burks, who had 53 points in the first two games of the tournament, had just worked in for a dunk and then drilled a 10-footer to cap a 9-0 run that put the fifth-seeded Buffaloes up 22-10.
“They got us down 22-10 before we woke up,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We actually played some of our best ball from about the 10-minute mark to the 10-minute mark of the second half. We kind of faltered down the stretch, but we’ll take it.”
Colorado (21-13) is switching conferences next season but appears to have a good chance at an NCAA tournament bid, which would be its first postseason appearance since 2005. Playing their third tough game in three days, and lacking the bench strength of the deep and talented Jayhawks, the Buffaloes may have tired.
“I know these guys in the locker room are disappointed and will never be happy with this result,” first-year Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “But as a coach, you’ve got to look at the effort your guys put out on the floor, and we gave it a great effort tonight.
“We just didn’t have enough juice and gas in our tank to get over the hump.”
Burks had 23 points for Colorado, giving him 76 in three tournament games as the Buffs reached the semifinals for the first time in the event’s 15-year history.
Reed’s two 3-pointers also helped blunt Colorado’s comeback.
“Somebody set a really good screen for me to knock one down in the corner,” Reed said. “Then I’m not sure who penetrated and found me open again. So I’ll give credit to my teammates and I was fortunate to knock down some shots and hopefully change the momentum a bit.”
Colorado’s Cory Higgins, who had 28 points the night before in a victory over Kansas State, had just six points on 1-for-11 shooting and was guarded most of the time by Reed.
“We didn’t do anything differently,” Reed said. “Whoever was guarding him did a good job of keeping him in front of him and forcing him into tough shots. There was no extra emphasis. They’ve got great offensive players in Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. They’re really tough to guard.”
Boyle thought Higgins might have been affected by the taxing three-day stretch, the Buffaloes’ first trip to the semifinals in the tournament’s 15-year history.
“He expended a lot of energy last night, a lot of emotional as well as physical energy, and I did feel like midway through the second half he just didn’t have that pep in his step,” Boyle said.
Kansas, trailing by 12 early in the first half, took a 43-37 lead into halftime and then roared away on a 16-5 run to start the second, seizing a 62-44 lead.
Colorado, playing its school-record 34th game, cut the lead to 82-74 with 1:32 left on a bucket by Burks. After Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor sank two foul shots apiece, Burks drove in for a layup and converted a three-point play, cutting the lead to 86-80 with 37 seconds left.
But the Jayhawks, aiming to nail down a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, were 8 for 8 from the foul line in the final minutes and held a 41-26 rebounding edge.
Levi Knutson, with his fifth 3-pointer, made it 84-77 before Taylor hit a pair of foul shots.
For the first 9 1/2 minutes, the Buffaloes were nearly flawless, hitting eight of their first 11 shots and not committing a turnover until Austin Dufault’s foul at the 10:27 mark. Nate Tomlinson got the game started with a 3-pointer and Marcus Relphorde canned another 3 for an 11-2 Colorado lead.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)