Fur Will Fly on Big Monday

The Border Showdown heats up tonight at Mizzou Arena in Columbia for the 300th meeting between Kansas and Missouri. Tipoff is 8 p.m. on ESPN Big Monday.

The game features two of the hottest teams in the country with Big 12 championship implications who are both trying to boost their resumes for March Madness.

Kansas (18-4, 8-0 in Big 12) enters the rivalry matchup with eight straight wins and is coming off a 78-67 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are one of just six Division I teams remaining in the country who are undefeated in league play.

Missouri (20-4, 7-2), meanwhile, is on a hot streak as well. The Tigers have won seven of their last eight games (11 of last 13) and bring a three-game winning streak into tonight's battle, including a 82-68 victory at Iowa State on Saturday. MU sports a 15-game home-winning streak, tied for the seventh-longest home court streak in NCAA Division I.

Kansas swept the series with Mizzou last season and has won five straight and nine of the last 11 against the Tigers.

But this one definitely won't come easy in a raucous Mizzou Arena.

"It will probably be as difficult a setting as we've played in all year, but we need that," KU coach Bill Self said. "I think our guys will be excited, but certainly, we have to take care of the ball a little better. We had 17 turnovers (against Oklahoma State), so naturally we have to be much better against Missouri."

Missouri is bursting with confidence after its victory over the Cyclones in Ames, where senior forward DeMarre Carroll posted a career-high 31 points. Freshman guard Kim English added 16 points on 4 of 5 shooting from three-point range, while senior forward Leo Lyons chipped in 12. MU shot a sizzling 57.4 percent from the field and clinched its first 20-win season in six years.

"We had great focus going into the game," Missouri head coach Mike Anderson said. "Our leadership and seniors stepped up, and we were focused on the game. It wasn't easy, with this game being in between Texas (MU beat the Longhorns in Austin, 69-65, on Feb. 4) and Kansas. ... I thought DeMarre challenged himself and he was a beast.

"This is the second half of the conference season, and the seniors' games are winding down. They have to leave everything on the floor. The thing about this team is that we have a lot of options. We shot the ball well early on, and we picked up the tempo of the game. Iowa State cut the lead down, and we responded."

Missouri is a dangerous team which leads the Big 12 in scoring at 84.2 points per game, scoring margin (+17.7), three-point field goal percentage defense (30.9), assists (19.5), steals, (10.7), turnover margin (+6.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5).

Carroll has emerged as a true star on a deep MU team with 10 players averaging 10 or more minutes per game. He leads the Tigers with 17.3 points per game, fifth best in the Big 12. Carroll also paces the team in rebounding (7.0 rpg), tied for team lead in blocks (20) with junior forward Keith Ramsey, and ranks second with 41 steals and field goal percentage at 58.1 percent.

Lyons is also having a standout season, averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He also has 17 blocked shots. Senior guard Matt Lawrence adds 8.8 points per game and leads MU with 53 treys. Junior guard J.T. Tiller is next in scoring  at 7.7 points per game, while also leading the Tigers with 46 steals and ranking second with 81 assists.

Freshman guard Marcus Denmon averages 7.3 points and is a long-range threat with 27 three-pointers. English (7.2 ppg) is a talented three-point shooter as well with 31 threes. Junior guard Zaire Taylor paces MU with 84 assists while averaging 5.7 points. Ramsey, who has started five games, chips in 4.5 points per game.

Self is concerned about all of MU's weapons, especially Carroll.

"Mike has done a great job," Self said. "His players are playing hard. I love DeMarre Carroll. I just think he's so active and gives them something. He doesn't have to score to play great. He gives them kind of a personality, an identity. They're doing a great job."

Self hopes KU can continue its winning ways in Columbia and erase the bad taste of the Jayhawks' poor finish to the Cowboys on Saturday.

While Self acknowledged KU "did some good things" against the Cowboys (the Jayhawks limited OSU to 35.4 percent shooting and outrebounded the Cowboys 46-33, led by sophomore center Cole Aldrich's career-high 18 boards), he was quite displeased "how we finished the game."

"We were miserable the last four or five minutes," Self said. "That should've been a 20-point game. ... It was a win. I wish we would've finished the game better, but we were able to get through it, and now it sets the stage for a pretty big Big Monday."

Indeed, with two of the hottest teams in the nation set to tip off tonight at Mizzou Arena, this Border Showdown doesn't get much better.

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