Kansas Overpowers Missouri

Had you listened to any local sports talk radio or surfed the message boards, Missouri never had a chance against the third ranked Kansas Jayhawks and early on it looked like they were right. The Jayhawks eventually earned a 73-61 decision, but it was much tougher than almost anybody expected it to be.<br>

Fueled by six points from senior big man Wayne Simien, and five points from J.R. Giddens, Kansas opened the game with a 12-4 run during the first 5:10 of the game. However, Missouri wasn't going down on national t.v. without a fight and rallied around senior guard Jason Conley and sophomore big man Linas Kleiza as they fought their way back into the game and finished with a 20-4 run over the final 6:50 of the first half to take a surprising 36-28 lead into the half.

Whether it was a hangover from the Saturday night's throttling of Texas, or just poor effort, senior guard Keith Langford who struggled through a tough first half -- 0-4 from the floor and three turnovers – was confident Kansas would turn it around in the second half.

"We were disappointed in our play in the first half, but we knew that we had 20 more minutes to play and we knew the game wasn't over," said the Ft. Worth, TX native. "They were playing really excited, but if anything we were going to make it tough for them to win that game."

According to Langford, he and fellow senior starters Aaron Miles and Simien weren't about to give up a home game to the rival Tigers.

"They were going to have to go to Hell and back to get it done," said Langford. "We just came together and were like it's not (happening) on our watch."

True to their word, Kansas' senior starters -- led by a dazzling display from Miles who doled out nine of his 10 assists and scored 10 of his 14 points during the second half -- looked to take control of the game.

When Simien, who scored a game high 22 points while grabbing eight rebounds, nailed a jumper with 11:17 remaining in the game Kansas had cut the lead to 51-50. More impressively, the trio had scored all 22 of Kansas points through the first 8:43 of the second half.

"We didn't expect to take the type of beating we took in the first half and a lot of it was due to our own mistakes," said Simien who admitted that head coach Bill Self gave an inspiring halftime talk. "I'm sure all you guys can probably imagine what it was like, but it really got us fired up.

"It really fired Keith up and he came out early in the second half and really took over. We got some energy on defense and got some stops and once we took the lead the house got to rockin' and it was in our favor."

That lead came shortly after Self's decision to switch from man to man to a zone defense. Emerging from a media timeout with 11:02 to play, Kansas went to a 3-2 zone that forced Conley to take an off balance jumper late in the possession. Off the long rebound, Miles pushed the ball up the court and fed Giddens – who finished with 15 points -- a sweet alley-oop giving Kansas the lead at 52-51.

On the next possession, Miles found junior Christian Moody with another lob and after a Giddens three pointer with 8:08 to go moved the lead to 57-54.  Kansas never looked back as the held the Tigers at bay until the final buzzer.

"Missouri played great, Quin had them prepared and their shot selection was excellent," said Self who admitted that Missouri was the better team in the first half. "The second half I thought we played great, I thought the second half was as good as either half we played against Texas.

"You take away two silly fouls on offensive free-throws and a bad pass there late for no reason, that's about as well as you can execute and shoot the ball and rebound in a half. At least as well as we've done it all year."

With the victory Kansas improves to 17-1 overall and 7-0 in the Big 12. Next up on the schedule is an 11 a.m. game at Nebraska on Saturday.


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