January 24th, 1999.
Is there anything in particular you can recall about that date off the top of your head? Britney Spears Baby, One More Time was the number one song in the country, Patch Adams was the number one movie, and I was still in college at Rockhurst University in Kansas City. Meanwhile, down the highway a little ways from my college exploits, Norm Stewart led his last Missouri Tiger team into Lawrence and Phog Allen Fieldhouse and walked out with a 71-63 win over the 19th ranked Jayhawks.
That game, where Brian Grawer scored 16 points and Albert White chipped in 15, was the last time a Missouri team won in Lawrence.
It was Norm’s last season, and Roy Williams still had four years to go before he left for Chapel Hill. Quin Snyder never won in Lawrence, Mike Anderson never won in Lawrence, Frank Haith nearly pulled it off in his lone trip there but the officials swallowed their whistle late and let Phil Pressey get mugged at the rim by Thomas Robinson.
Since that game in 2012, Mizzou has only made the trip to the unfriendly confines once. Two years ago in Cuonzo Martin’s fateful last season. The Tigers 37 point loss was the largest margin of victory in the series since the 1978 season.
Snyder was 0-7 with the average margin of loss being 12.1 points. His worst loss was 33 points in a game he didn’t even coach, he’d already been fired in 2006. He did have a 32 point loss in 2002. His closest loss was his first, a game in March of 2000 most famous for a 1st half charge call than anything else. Keyon’s expression is all of us:
Mike Anderson did not have any luck there either. He was 0-5 with just one loss by single digits, that was in 2007. The Tigers otherwise averaged a 20 point loss to the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
Frank Haith’s lone trip, as I said above, nearly netted a victory. The full game is still up on YouTube, if you needed a reminder of how bad officiating gets in that building.
It’s not impossible to win there. It’s just really hard. For one, they’re always good. They haven’t missed an NCAA Tournament since 1989, when they were banned from participation following their 1988 National Championship. The basis for their post season ban... recruiting violations. Prior to that it was 1983 the last time they missed a Tournament, which was pre-modern era. The tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Since 1990 KU has lost just 30 games at home, 11 of those have been non-conference games and just 5 have come at the hands of an unranked non-conference opponent. Mizzou has won three games there (all as a conference opponent), and the only team with more wins in Phog since 1990? Iowa State who have four wins.
Bill Self has been even better at home than Roy Williams. He’s lost 17 times at home since taking over with six of those losses coming from out of conference foes. The most recent was Kentucky two years ago. The Wildcats decimated KU as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, winning by 18 points.
So it’s possible. Oklahoma State has won twice there as an unranked team, once in 2018 and again in 2013. And even this Kansas team has proven fallible, needing their starters in the game late against Eastern Illinois in order to win by 8 points.
Missouri has had two very unsuccessful cracks at Kansas the last two seasons. We’ve watched the games and they’ve gone... poorly. I fully expect Self to have his team raring and ready to go for this game, the same way they’ve been pumped for the last two.
Missouri needs to be ready to meet the intensity of the moment. They need to be ready to attack the rim and put pressure on the KU defense, and Hunter Dickinson. They need to swarm the rim on defense and make KU take difficult shots. They need to withstand the first and second big runs from the Jayhawks and find ways to answer big shots with bigger shots. This team doesn’t have the runway to worry about any moral victories. They need to channel Norm Stewart. They need to channel Doug Smith. They need to go beat KU.