LAWRENCE, Kan. – While Thomas Robinson was the one to extend the game at the end of regulation with a three-point play and a blocked shot, it was Tyshawn Taylor who ended it, sinking a pair of free throws to give no. 5 Kansas an 87-86 overtime victory over no. 3 Missouri Saturday evening in Lawrence. The victory guarantees KU at least a share of their 12th Big 12 Title.
“It was a great ball game,” coach Frank Haith said after the game. “I thought our guys played their hearts out, competed and we did what we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”
Saturday’s OT thriller served as a fitting end to the “conference” chapter of the 105-year-old rivalry and left fans from both sides craving more.
“This game meant a lot to both schools and both teams. This maybe the last time we play; I think that would be sad,” Haith said. “You saw the atmosphere out here today and the atmosphere at our place, it’d be sad if we don’t play. I just don’t understand it and hopefully we can continue to play. This is too good of a game and too good of a rivalry to not play.”
For Mizzou, everything was going according to plan. They opened the second half with a 14-7 run, capped off by a Marcus Denmon three, to build a 19-point lead with 16 minutes left.
Unfortunately, an anomaly that has plagued this team throughout most of the season re-surfaced and ultimately cost them a crucial win. Rather than continue to run their offense and attack the Jayhawks’ interior defense, the Tigers started to settle for quick jump shots giving their opponents a chance to hang around.
“We took some quick shots in that stretch [during the second half],” Haith said. “I think we took a couple of contested threes when we didn’t have to. All we had to do was continue to run our offense; and I thought our offense’s execution was outstanding.”
The Jayhawks capitalized on Missouri’s offensive struggles, outscoring the Tigers 36-17 over the final 16 minutes of the second half to send the game into overtime.
“They shot 33 free throws and a lot of those came in the second half,” Denmon said. “When you are living at the free throw line, you are scoring while the clock is stopped; it is easy to chip a lead away. That’s what Kansas did and they hit free throws when they needed.”
While 12 of KU’s 33 free throws did come in the second half, it was the one hit by Robinson at the end of regulation that was the most significant.
Down by three with 20 seconds left, Robinson passed the ball to Elijah Johnson, which drew two Missouri defenders out of position. Johnson quickly bounced the ball back to Robinson, who not only hit the layup, but also drew enough contact from Michael Dixon to earn the chance at a three-point play to tie the game.
“It was a big play; it was definitely huge,” Robinson said. “I just knew that I had to get the ball off the glass and that is all I tried to do. He came up from under me at the last second.”
That game-tying shot from Robinson still left an opportunity for Missouri to win in regulation and with 10 seconds left, the Tigers cleared the lane for sophomore Phil Pressey, but the 6-10 Robinson came over and stuffed Pressey’s lay-up attempt.
“Phil [Pressey] got in the lane. We are on the road so we knew we probably wouldn’t get a call. We were just trying to get a good look at the basket,” Denmon said. “I thought that Phil might have been getting bumped into the lane and then Thomas [Robinson] came and he got the block to send it into overtime.”
After KU responded to a three-pointer from Denmon with a dunk from Taylor with 28 seconds left, Missouri turned to Denmon, who hit a circus jump shot with 12 seconds left to give them a one-point lead.
The Tigers were slow getting back, however, which led to Pressey getting called for his fifth foul of the game, this one against Taylor.
“We have to go score and get a good shot, but get it as fast as possible,” Taylor said. “I just put my head down and saw a little seam and just attacked. I got bumped a little earlier, but they called it on the shot. I got fouled and I made the free throws.”
With Pressey out of the game and just eight seconds remaining, Haith looked to Dixon to get the ball down the floor and give Missouri a chance to win. Dixon completed part one, but rather than look for one of his teammates, he tried to drive past a KU defender before passing the ball off to Denmon as time expired.
“It was a handoff ball screen,” Haith explained. “Marcus [Denmon] was supposed to get it and we just didn’t get him the ball.”
While Dixon’s lapse ultimately cost the Tigers a chance to win the game at the end of overtime, his teammates did their best not to let him get too down on himself.
“We just told him to keep his head up and continue to play,” Denmon said. “This was a really important game for us and it hurts, but we have a lot of basketball left and our best basketball is yet to be played.”
In terms of scoring, Denmon and Robinson each scored 28 to lead all scorers. Denmon hit 10 of 15 shots from the floor for Missouri, who shot 46.2% from the floor as a team. The Tigers actually out-rebounded the Jayhawks 36-32, led by Ricardo Ratliffe who finished with 12 rebounds and 22 points. Kim English was the only other Missouri player to score in double figures with 11.
“We have played pretty good all year. This team has been pretty resilient. I thought our defense was good in the first half; I thought we executed,” Haith said. “Looking at the numbers, we made more field goals tonight and outrebounded them; I thought we played pretty well tonight there is no question about that.”
Missouri will look to regroup Wednesday night against Iowa State. A victory against the Cyclones would guarantee the Tigers a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.
Tip-off from Mizzou Arena is scheduled for 7 pm.
-AND NOW THIS!-
Hank’s Sports Blog will be giving away a free University of Missouri flag, compliments of the fine folks over at CVS Flags.
Now that we’ve all had some time to digest Saturday’s loss, here are my thoughts on the game:
-For starters, that first half was probably the most impressive half of basketball we’ve seen from this team all season. They were composed. They were hitting shots. They looked amazing. I’ll be honest, I was surprised by how well they dealt with the hostile environment that was Phog Allen Fieldhouse. I was telling my dad the other day that the environment in Lawrence would be unlike anything anyone had ever seen. I was right about that, but I was wrong about how the Tigers would respond. Credit to Frank and the boys for being locked in and ready to play Saturday afternoon.
–Don’t blame Saturday’s loss on the officials. That’s a lame excuse for what was a poor second half performance from Missouri. Yes, a few calls could have gone their way late in the game. However, the same can be said from the Kansas side about that game in Columbia. So, if you’re walking around twirling your Tiger tail, moaning about the officials, stop it.
–Loved the effort by Haith to get Ricardo Ratliffe involved early and often. Having him involved on offense from the opening tip definitely helped Mizzou pad that lead early in the second half.
-While it didn’t show up on the stat sheet, Steve Moore had a great game for Missouri. He pulled down seven rebounds, many of which came in key situations late in the game and he stayed out of foul trouble. “Steeeeve” is undoubtedly the most improved player on this team.
-I think Phil Pressey might just be Missouri’s most valuable player. For starters, he showed a lot more poise on the final possession of regulation than Dixon did at the end of overtime. One would think that if Phil was the one running that final play, things would have turned out differently for Missouri.
-That is by no means a shot at Dixon, who I think deserves National Sixth Man of the Year. He’s a great player and a lot of fun to watch. However, he has been trying to do too much lately. He throws up haphazard shots and sometimes loses control as he goes up for lay-ups. Not to say Pressey isn’t vulnerable to the same sort of mistakes, but the timing of Dixon’s mistakes seems to make them stand out a lot more than Phil’s.
–I don’t understand why this team randomly reverts to its “Fastest Forty Minutes” roots in the middle of games. It’s frustrating. They went from performing at peak efficiency through the first 25 minutes of the game, to settling for jumpers and contested threes for basically the rest of the game. Not sure it’s as much coaching by Haith as it is lapses in judgment by the players.
Quote of the night:
“The atmosphere had nothing to do with it. We lost the game. We fought hard to win, but this loss doesn’t define our season. It is a loss that we really wanted; we really wanted to win the league. We came out and competed and fought hard, we just weren’t fortunate enough to come up with the win. This isn’t football. We are not out of the national championship running with a regular season loss. We will learn from this and watch film tomorrow or Monday and fix what we need to do down the stretch to finish games and grow. We grew today from the Kansas State game. That was just another step in our growth to get to where we want to be.”-Kim English
English and I didn’t get along too well when I covered this team for The Maneater, but I do respect his candor, especially after tough losses like this.
Quotes via KU Athletics Department