Pressure On

The Big 12's top two scoring teams meet up in round one of the Border Showdown Monday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. For KU it will be all about dealing with pressure.

Monday night Kansas will deal with two types of pressure. The full court press of the Missouri Tigers and the need to win and keep pace with Texas to have any chance at a Big 12 title for a sixth straight year.

In the past Kansas has handled Mike Anderson's Tigers by attacking the pressure for easy baskets and that philosophy will be no different this time around.

"One thing you want to do is take advantage of their aggressiveness, if you can," said KU head coach Bill Self who has a three-game winning streak against the Tigers. "Like a lot of teams out there, if you are passive against them, their pressure becomes greater. We need to attack their pressure. That's not any secret at all. Sometimes we've had success doing that and sometimes we have not at all."

The problem is at times KU hasn't taken care of the ball this season and if you do turn it over in transition Missouri will quickly turn it into two points at the other end. The Tigers are super quick and quicker than any team that KU has faced this season.

"They are a team that you can't get hung up on turning it over," Self stated. "When you put that much pressure on people, you will turn it over some. We have to make sure we limit our turnovers and take care of the basketball in attack mode. Then when we do screw up, we need to make sure mistakes don't lead to easy baskets."

With such an athletic team that is extremely adept at sharing the basketball its been shocking to see KU struggle to finish off fast breaks. The lanes haven't been filled, the spacing hasn't been right and a lot of those poor plays in transition have gone back in the other direction. That simply cannot be the case against Missouri.

"They force you to make plays," said Self referencing this year's Tigers. "It's a strategy that is very, very good and that has been a weakness of our ballclub this year. I think that is going to be a huge key. In years past we've been successful in taking advantage of those opportunities. This year we haven't been quite as good. I thought we were better against Nebraska doing that."

Kansas actually leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) but it just hasn't felt like it at times. The reason for that is likely that many of the turnovers have not been forced. The bad news is Missouri likes to FORCE them. The good news is that Tyshawn Taylor has just six turnovers in his last five games and he's accumulated 20 assists in that span doing a majority of the ball-handling. Taylor has looked more aggressive and more comfortable of late and many still believe he's the key to how far this team will go.

His backcourt mate Josh Selby, who's struggled at times with turnovers this season, may not be joining him in the backcourt for his second game in a row. The MRI and the x-rays on Selby's ankle were negative but after missing the Nebraska game Saturday the KU freshman did not practice on Sunday.

"Him not practicing today and having been off since basically Tuesday, to me, is not a great sign for a guy playing against a team like Missouri that gets after you," Self said.  "Yesterday he experienced a little bit of discomfort and tenderness, so maybe its better 24 hours later but I'm not believing it's going to be to the point I'm going to have total confidence putting him out there. He's probably doubtful (for Monday)."

If Selby doesn't get the nod, senior Brady Morningstar will again take his spot in the starting lineup. Morningstar continues to prove his worth and is coming off a season-high 19 points against Nebraska. Brady has the experience against Mizzou, the smarts to value the ball, and the passing skills that will help Kansas get the ball to the right spot against the Tigers. Over his last five games Morningstar is shooting nearly 67 percent from the field and is a blistering 7-10 from beyond the arc in that span. The most impressive and critical stat over his last two games? 10 assists and just one turnover. That's reason enough to see Brady out on the floor regularly Monday night.

"He's been good for us whether he makes shots or not," Self told reporters. "A lot of people don't appreciate everything he does. The ball moves; he's the best post feeder; probably our best perimeter defender. There are a lot of things he does so well that gives our team a chance to be as good as a team as it can be. He's started to be aggressive offensively and had some success offensively; I think that will make him more effective."

Kansas must also take advantage of its size advantage inside. Mizzou doesn't have a player who stands taller than 6-9 but the Tigers can be scrappy on the boards and they are still able to utilize the interior. In the last few meetings Kansas has owned the paint - a combination of dominant rebounding, finishing fast breaks and attacking the pressure for points, and not settling for jumpers.

"It's going to be a game of spurts. It will be a game a runs. We'll look really good for a period of time and they'll look really good for a period of time. I just hope we have more long stretches than they do," said Self admitting that KU will not be perfect against this pressure.

Missouri has struggled on the road in conference play losing its last four. The Tigers sit at 4th in the league and are hungry for a feather-in-the-cap win and KU would provide that. Plus it never disappoints either fan base to nab a win in this heated rivalry.

"I've only been a part of it going on eight years and I was part of a great Missouri rivalry when I was at Illinois also," said Self who is a career 15-3 against Mizzou. "This one is more intense and there is more hatred. I think this stems back from the area of the country where people were raised. It comes back to statehood. There is certainly a lot of pride in both states and this is the game that people circle."

Phog.net Top Stories