The Border War returned to Columbia on Saturday, and Kansas cruised to a 95-67 victory to claim another victory in the rivalry.
Jalen Wilson led the way for the Jayhawks with 24 points, while Kevin McCullar, Jr. added on 21. Kansas shot 57.4% from the floor and 45.5% from behind the arc while forcing 21 turnovers in a complete team performance.
The atmosphere at Mizzou Arena was truly electric, as a sold-out crowd really made sure the Jayhawks felt the noise and energy of the Tiger faithful after years of being without this rivalry game. Mr. Brightside was even played pre-game to really get the fans going, and the tension could be felt in the arena even an hour before tip-off.
“Our crowd was outstanding throughout the game again, we just didn’t give them more reason to be on the edge of their seats,” Dennis Gates said.
Bill Self agreed, even though he received a less than warm welcome.
“The crowd was very welcoming,” Self said with a laugh. “But in all honesty, you want to be in an environment where people care, and this was obviously a caring environment.”
Despite all of the outside noise and raucous environment at Mizzou Arena, the Jayhawks looked unfazed from the jump. After all, this was a team that had been to countless sold out arenas and was coming off a national championship season.
Kansas opened up a 26-12 lead at the under twelve timeout in the first half, and it came as a result of some red hot shooting. Freshman Gradey Dick led the way with 12 as the Tigers kept helping off of him and giving him open looks from the perimeter. The Jayhawks began the game shooting 10-for-12 from the field and 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
Missouri, on the other hand, had to settle for tough buckets on offense. Nothing came easy, and they struggled to hold on to the ball.
“I thought Kansas did a great job of forcing us into ill-advised shots, shots that we would not normally take,” Gates said.
The struggles continued throughout the first half. Dick remained hot, hitting three 3-pointers in the opening half, while KJ Adams dominated down low. His athleticism and high-motor allowed him to get plenty of dunks and layups in the first half, and Mizzou did not have anyone capable of out-muscling him down low. On the other end of the floor, Adams did a great job at shutting down Kobe Brown, who finished with only four points on the night. Adams, on the other hand, went 9-for-11 shooting and scored 19 points.
The Tigers just kept making uncharacteristic mistakes. They overall looked sped up on offense and a step behind on defense. The most revealing stat? The Tigers had four assists and nine turnovers in the first half alone, which is foreign for a team that averages the most assists per game in the nation.
Kansas took advantage of the Tigers’ miscues, shooting 64.5% from the floor and 60% from behind the arc, at times making it look too easy to score in the first half. The Tigers were completely taken out of their rhythm early in the game, and it set the tone for the rest of the half.
The Jayhawks picked up right where they left off in the second half. Two Missouri turnovers allowed them to score the first seven points of the half, and the lead ballooned to as much as 24 before the under sixteen media timeout.
Kevin McCullar got hot as the half went on. The Texas Tech transfer had 14 in the second half for the Jayhawks, joining Dick, Wilson and Adams in double-figures.
The Tigers did manage to mount a small rally, cutting the deficit to 15 at the under eight minute timeout.
“That second half run, you could clearly hear the excitement in the arena,” Gates said. “But, a top 10 team called a timeout and regrouped, and we did not execute how we wanted.”
The Jayhawks did regroup, responding with a run of their own to extend the lead back out to nearly 30 as the minutes wore down.
As mentioned earlier, the Tigers entered this game averaging the most assists per game in the country and ranked among the best in the nation forcing turnovers. However, the script was completely flipped here. They finished with 8 assists to 21 turnovers, a stat line Gates is not used to seeing from this team.
“I look at it this way,” Gates said. “They had 28 points off turnovers. We lost by 28.”
Outside of that glaring issue, this team just overall looked a couple tiers below the Jayhawks. Kansas played some high-level basketball at times in this game, and the Tigers could not keep up on either end. The cutting and ball movement from Kansas was crisp, and their defense forced Missouri into countless tough shots. The Tigers also just could not contain ball handlers from KU, allowing them to get deep into the paint and kick out for open shooters.
The stars for Mizzou did not make a major impact in this one as well. Brown struggled all night and really did not look to create his own shot very often, while Sean East II only finished with two points on 1-for-5 shooting. Tre Gomillion had a rough outing as well, finishing with six turnovers. D’Moi Hodge had a solid outing with 15 points, as did Nick Honor with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
“This is a lesson for us,” Noah Carter, who finished with 12 points, said. “Just regrouping after this loss; staying together as a brotherhood, that’s the most important thing.”
Missouri will take on UCF (6-2) in Sunrise, FL at the FLA Live Arena next Saturday. The game will take place at 11 a.m. CST.