A couple of games on the schedule this season left Kansas fans thinking - could've, would've, should've - meaning if the Jayhawks finished what they started the loss column might be an even lower number. One of those games was against border rival Missouri. Much like they did against Syracuse in November, KU blew a sizeable second half lead in Columbia and came away with a frustrating 62-60 "L" instead of an impressive road win.
"We lost that game because they were just better than us down the
stretch," said KU head coach Bill Self noting the clutch shots and
stops Mizzou got in the last five minutes of the game.
But Kansas has a chance to atone for one that got away on Sunday when
it takes on Missouri for a pivotal Big 12 tilt as the conference season
nears the end.
"I thought we gave it (the game) away," said Sherron Collins reflecting
on the missed opportunity. "We get frustrated with ourselves because we
had the game in our hands and let it slip away. We turned the ball over
and made dumb mistakes late in the game. It's a game that we look
forward to getting back."
"We kind of got a little careless at the end of that game. It might
have carried over a little bit (from the Oklahoma State game). It was
all due to their pressure. They've shown over the course of the Big 12
season that they can really turn a lot of teams over," said sophomore
center Cole Aldrich.
"They made turnovers that they don't usually make and they missed shots
that they don't usually miss (in the first half). They had good looks,
but they just couldn't hit them. I think they'll play better on the
road," said Collins.
The tape doesn't lie and after watching the first contest, Kansas is
well-aware that the Tigers did not have their best on that Monday night
in Columbia. MU put up just 16 first half points and seemed to miss
more than its share of open looks. But Mike Anderson's squad made the
biggest shots and the biggest plays with the game on the line to eek
out a close win. Kansas will also need to take better care of the
basketball after turning it over 27 times against Missouri's relentless
"They really were relentless throughout the whole game," Aldrich
continued. "For 40 minutes they went press. It was tough. It can
definitely wear teams out. I think we're going to be a little more
prepared for it."
"They're going to trap you once you get the ball. We just have to
attack the pressure. Once you get the ball, you've got to go. They're
going to come up behind you and try to back-tap. We have to attack them
and go to the rim," said Collins.
Attacking the press to score and not just getting it over half court
will be key for KU. The Jayhawks will look at breaking the press as a
chance to get easy scores and not have to face Missouri's half court
Kansas is going to be prepared and is going to have plenty of
motivation. KU controls its own destiny thanks to defeating a Blake
Griffin-less Oklahoma team on Monday, not to mention the Jayhawks would
never want to miss out on a chance to take out their heated rival.
Kansas is also sneaking its way up the polls and earning a two or three
seed in the NCAA Tournament is not out of the question. But Self knows,
there's a lot of work to do just two weeks away from selection Sunday.
"We have three tough games, starting with a team (Missouri) that's
playing about as well as anyone right now," said Self. "I told our guys
we are not even going to talk about the league race this week; we are
just going to talk about Missouri. That's what we need to do, take it
one game at a time. We have put ourselves in a position right now where
I think that my expectation of where I hoped we were has been
"I've said all along that the best team in our league has the chance to
compete for the highest of stakes, because our league is so good. I do
think we are in the equation and I'm happy to be part of the equation
as opposed to being on the outside looking in."
Self has done a commendable job this season coaching a young team, one
that seems to improve everyday, he has seemingly pulled all the right
strings and is in the conversation for league coach of the year. Self
handled the talent and the egos last year and brought home a national
title, and once again this year he's molded a young impressionable
group of kids into a Big 12 title contender and a likely tough out in
the NCAA tournament.
"I never thought that I would be thinking about seeding, but we have a
legitimate chance to get a really good seed. I did think that we would
be thinking about winning the league and to me the whole thing is not
getting ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of work to do," said Self.
There is no doubt the KU head coach will keep his young troops focused
on the task at hand and the Hawks will be in attack mode this time
against the Tigers.
"I do believe this will be a harder game for us to win because I
anticipate them coming in here and playing very well," Self continued.
"They are a better team than they were back then, but on the flip side,
I think we are a better team as well. It should be two really good
teams playing Sunday."
Border War - Take 2
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