Free Staters Win

The Kansas-Missouri game Sunday afternoon marked the 54th anniversary of the first game in Allen Field House. Former Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich was back for his jersey retirement ceremony. Several former Jayhawks, including Nick Collison, were in attendance.

Missouri should've stayed on the bus.

The final score was Jayhawks 90, Slavers 65, and it wasn't that close. Sherron Collins led all scorers with 25 points. He also dished six assists and had five rebounds. Cole Aldrich racked up his 852nd double-double of the season with 19 and 14. Tyshawn Taylor added 15 points.

KU coach Bill Self said that he was proud of his team and very pleased with seeing them play such in-your-face basketball.

"I thought we played good," . We were aggressive. I didn't anticipate it being (a) 26 (point lead) at halftime. That's the best half of ball we've played in 11 months, since Carolina last year. We were fortunate that they missed shots the first half. They missed some looks they might usually make. The big difference between the first game and this one was we were in aggressive attack mode instead of being passive."

Emotions were running high among the Jayhawks, thanks to a crowd that was ready to explode and a loss in Columbia that just didn't sit well.

"We knew we were going to come out with a lot of energy. We were pumped up for the game because thought we gave 'em one in Columbia," Aldrich said.

Collins was also quick to praise freshman protege Tyshawn Taylor, whose resurgence continued Sunday. Taylor's 15 points came on 5-of-7 shooting, 1-of-1 behind the three-point line. He also handed out six assists with just two turnovers – a vast improvement over even just a few games ago. Collins said Taylor was a key to KU getting out to a quick lead and playing at a high level all afternoon.

"Tyshawn made things happen. He did the little things. Great passes, shot well, didn't turn the ball over.

KU (24-5 overall, 13-1 in the Big 12) attacked their way to a 45-19 halftime lead, including an 18-1 run that took a 5-4 Slaver lead and turned it into a 22-5 Kansas spanking with 12:18 left in the first period. It also didn't hurt that Missouri shot just 20.5% in the first half and didn't have a lot of chances to set up their press. MU (24-5, 11-3) shot much better in the second half (54.8%), but they never managed to get closer than 18 points after the intermission. That improved shooting stuck in Self's craw, despite the big win.

He said, "We didn't guard Missouri the second half. They scored too many points. I think some of our guys lost some of their intensity in the second half."

The 18-1 run put MU back on their heels early, but it wasn't the product of anything unusual, Self said.

"I don't think that an 18-1 run means we were aggressive. I thought we were aggressive for 40 minutes. Even when we screwed up, we were trying to score and being aggressive.

KU now faces a somewhat surprising situation. Not many would've picked the defending national champions who lost seven key players to the NBA and graduation to contend for the conference regular season title back in September. That's exactly where they find themselves, though, with a trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech and clinch a share of the Big 12 crown. Self says that expectations are starting to ramp up now, but that's okay. He says it's a necessary evil if his team is to see some success  in a few weeks.

"You have to put yourself in pressure situations because the NCAA tournament has a different feel to it. I told our guys that. It's good we're playing games under pressure, like games to win the league. It's better to have people talk a little bit (about expectations) now so they feel a different type of pressure. You don't want the tournament to be the first time they feel pressure," Self said.

But there's still work to be done. Kansas takes on Pat Knight's Texas Tech Red Raiders Wednesday and then return home for Matt Klinemann and Brennan Bechard's Senior Night against Texas next Saturday afternoon. Tip-offs are scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and 3 p.m. Saturday.

Self said that he doesn't get wrapped up in beating any team, including Missouri. What does capture his interest, however, is winning "high-stakes" games like Monday's in Norman over Oklahoma and Sunday's against Missouri.

"Each win makes the next game a little bigger. Anytime you're playing for a conference championship, it's high stakes," he said.

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