Border War Heads to Columbia Today

Kansas took care of business by beating Kansas State on Senior Night in Allen Fieldhouse Wednesday and winning the Big 12 championship outright. Three days later, the Jayhawks close out the regular season with a battle with their other arch-rival Missouri for the 263rd all-time meeting of the Border War.

Tipoff is 1 p.m. (CT) today in Columbia with the game televised on CBS.

Kansas (28-2, 14-1 Big 12) easily won the first meeting versus MU this season, 84-65, on Jan. 25 in the Phog. The Jayhawks cruised to a 50-30 halftime lead en route to the convincing victory, dominating the shorter Tigers on the boards, 56 to 28, and holding MU to just 27.9 percent from the field.

KU sophomore forward Marcus Morris paced the ‘Hawks with 17 points and nine rebounds, while junior center Cole Aldrich recorded a double-double (12 points, 16 boards).

The Jayhawks figure to have a much tougher battle in Columbia on Saturday, where Missouri (22-8, 10-5) is 13-1 at home this season. MU has won four of its last five games with the lone loss at then-No. 6 Kansas State, 63-53, on Feb. 27. The Tigers are coming off a 69-67 overtime victory at Iowa State on Tuesday.

KU coach Bill Self knows the home court will give MU a huge boost, especially on Senior Day.

"The way they play, I think it definitely gives their defense energy from the crowd," Self said. "Look at their home record over the last few years. It's been stellar. So this will be a very difficult game because they're good, and also because they're better at home."

Missouri will be playing without junior forward Justin Safford, who's missed the last two games with a torn ACL in his left knee. Safford, who had been averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game in league play, broke loose for a game-high 19 points in MU's earlier loss to KU.

"I'm really a fan of his because he's played well against us," Self said. "I don't want to say positively, but he was as good as anybody they had against us the first time. He was really good. That's a big loss. It probably hurts them more from a depth standpoint than anything else because Missouri's not the biggest team, although their bigs play big. They're not physically as big and he's probably as a physical a guy as they have."

However, Self doesn't think Safford's absence will make a "huge difference other than a depth standpoint."

"One thing I've always said about (head coach) Mike's (Anderson) teams is it doesn't matter who they have out there," Self said. "Whoever they put out there always delivers the plays within the scheme to which he wants them to."

The Tigers average 78.9 points per game and allow 65.1. They force 19.9 turnovers a game; their +6.5 turnover margin leads the Big 12 while also leading the league in steals at 11.1 per game.

Sophomore guard Kim English leads the attack with 14.1 points per game. Sophomore guard Marcus Denmon (11.3 ppg) and sophomore forward Laurence Bowers (10.1 ppg) also average in double digits. Other key players are senior guard J.T. Tiller (8.7 ppg), senior guard Zaire Taylor (8.4 ppg), freshman guard Michael Dixon (7.3 ppg) and senior forward Keith Ramsey (5.9 ppg).

KU knows it must exploit its height advantage inside, just like the Jayhawks did in their last meeting in Lawrence.

"Our bigs really stepped up that game," Aldrich said. "They do not have the size advantage that we do, but one thing we have to do that we haven't had the advantage lately in is rebounding. That was a huge factor when we played them here so we have to be aggressive on the boards."

While the Jayhawks have already clinched the Big 12 title outright, they'll be pretty amped heading to Columbia to battle their Border War rival before opening the Big 12 Tournament next Thursday at 11:30 a.m. (CT) in Kansas City.

"It is big," junior guard Brady Morningstar said. "It's big for pride and for the rivalry because it is Missouri and you do not want to lose. We are going to go out there with a mindset of that. We are playing for a lot of things."

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