TULSA, Okla. (Sports Network) – The Morris twins combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds, helping Kansas pull away to beat Illinois, 73-59, and move into the Sweet 16.
Markieff Morris finished with 24 points and 12 boards, while Marcus had 17 and 12 to lead the Jayhawks (34-2). The Illini didn’t have much of a solution for the talented frontcourt tandem, which scored the majority of Kansas’ points down the stretch to secure the victory.
Kansas, the top seed in the Southwest Region, will face Richmond in the Sweet 16. The 12th-seeded Spiders knocked off Vanderbilt before beating Morehead State on Saturday.
Mike Davis had 17 points to lead Illinois (20-14), while Mike Tisdale added 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Illini were looking to move into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005.
“I said the other day there is nothing better than winning in the NCAA and going back to the hotel and watching film on the next game, and feeling good about yourself that you’re going to play another day,” said Illinois head coach Bruce Weber. “When you can’t get back to the hotel to watch film again, it leaves a little emptiness. No matter the ups and downs of the season, you just don’t like it to end.”
The Illini used brief bursts of scoring to stay close in the second half, trimming their deficit when Kansas threatened to pull away.
After Marcus Morris scored five consecutive points to put the Jayhawks up 51-42 with just under 10 minutes left, Tisdale hit two free throws and D.J. Richardson got a layup to fall.
Then, after Kansas scored five more points, Richardson drilled a three-pointer and Davis sank a jumper, bringing the Illini within 56-51 with 6 1/2 minutes left.
But that’s when Markieff Morris took over, tipping in a shot before dunking to key a 10-0 run. Davis missed a shot and turned the ball over on Illinois’ next possession, leading to Morris’ alley-oop dunk off an assist from Tyshawn Taylor.
“It definitely energized the team,” Marcus Morris said of his brother’s dunks. “To me, Kieff is the best thing that we have on the team. A lot of people look to me as a leader, but I look to Kieff as a leader. The things he does on the court definitely changes games, and it opens it up for a lot of people.”
Kansas was also strong on the defensive end, holding Illinois scoreless for more than four minutes to enable its run, which Markieff capped with another dunk. The slam made it a 66-51 contest with 2 1/2 minutes left, effectively securing the win.
Kansas jumped on Illinois early, getting out to an 18-6 lead after six-plus minutes. But Davis scored five consecutive points later in the half to pull the Illini within 26-20, and they were within 33-29 at the break.
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