Border War - Take 2

KU admittedly let one slip away earlier this season in Columbia but Kansas has a chance to control its own destiny, beat a heated rival, and move another step closer to a Big 12 title.

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 pressure.

"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 defense.

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 surpassed."

"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."

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