Brian Graham, KC SportsNation
Kansas 87, Missouri 86 in overtime.
That hurts enough. But they way it happened, as a fan, makes it unbearable. I can’t remember a regular season loss hurting more, EVER.
Up 19 points at a place you never win at, and you lose. Unbelievable. I still can’t believe it. It went from amazement, to disbelief to anger and confusion and back to disbelief. What do you have to do to win at Allen Fieldhouse? Freaking Richmond won here, but Missouri can’t? Everyone says we should be proud. Why should I be? Because Mizzou blew their chance at a Big 12 title? Because they lost “but played well.” No moral victories when you are a Top 5 team. A chance to win in your final trip in Lawrence for the foreseeable future. A chance to sweep the season series from your hated rival – something that hasn’t happened since 1993 – in your final year in the Big 12, and you can’t, instead blowing the biggest deficit Kansas has faced since 2007. Who leads by 19 at Allen Fieldhouse anyway? I’m so sick and tired of losing in this building.
I wish that place would burn, again. I won’t miss it.
At halftime, as Missouri led 44-32, I thought, “Wow, we have a chance to win this thing.”
I had a conversation with my dad at halftime. He said, “You know Kansas is going to make a run.”
I told him, “It’s hard to blow a 12-point lead when you are a Top 5 team.”
Missouri closed the half on a 13-1 run. Then Mizzou extended the lead to 19 points just two and a half minutes into the half, leading 55-36 after an 11-4 run in what was an extended 24-5 run.
Then I thought, “Is this happening?”
Ya, it was happening, alright. The KU comeback.
But as much as things are the same – Kansas clinching at worst a share of their eighth straight conference title and winning their 13th straight at home over Missouri, this one was different.
It was the first overtime game in Lawrence between the two in 92 years, it tied for the biggest comeback in Allen Fieldhouse history. There was 14 lead changes and 18 ties. Missouri countered every one of Kansas’ blows with their own, plus another. It was as good as I had seen a team play in AFH in a long time. For 25 minutes, Missouri looked like the BEST team in the nation. For 32 minutes, Missouri seemed it control. For most of the game, especially the first 25 minutes – it was as good as the Tigers had looked all season. I said in yesterday’s preview, that when the Tigers were firing on all cylinders they are the best team in the nation. For 25 minutes they were. That is how you stroll into AFH and lead by 19 in the second half.
But, it still wasn’t enough. Missouri blew a 19-point lead. Kansas beat Missouri for the first time in four tries when both teams are ranked in the Top 10.
This morning I woke up infuriated by the inconsistency of the officiating down the stretch, which was simply put, God awful. Im not the only one who thinks so. National guys say the same. Phantom calls. No calls when their was blatant contact. Missouri got their own share of calls in the first half, most notably the mysterious Thomas Robinson “offensive foul” with four minutes left that sent the big man to the bench. After a back and forth first half, Missouri pulled away in those four minutes, ending the half on a 13-1 run. With Robinson in, could have been much different. Especially after Missouri hack-a-Shaq’d Kevin Young and Justin Wesley over and over again and watched him clank free throws. Down the stretch there were several calls that stood out – the mysterious fourth foul on Ricardo Ratliffe, the Thomas Robinson And-1 that tied the game where Mike Dixon MAY have made contact on Robinson, but the ref right under the basket did not blow the whistle, who had a perfect view. The No call on Phil Pressey to end regulation when Robinson blocked the shot yes, but hammered Flip after the block and knocked him to the floor. What an absolute mugging. Last but not least the so-called foul that fouled Pressey out of the game with 8.3 seconds left in overtime with KU down one, resulting in Tyshawn Taylor’s game-winning free throws. Taylor was out of control and the refs bailed him out.
Now, both Missouri and Kansas have “blown” or “choked away” and have complained about calls as they lost on the other team’s home floor in games they controlled for the majority of the game. But at least the refs in Columbia were consistent. They called the charge all night long. Taylor’s charge on Dixon with 10 seconds remaining in the game was clearly a charge and the refs called it that way, just as they would if the play happened with 10 minutes left in the game instead of seconds. I like consistent officiating. If you are going to call it early in the game, call it at the end of the game. The zebras didnt do that today.
“I was just hopeful we could get the same contact calls on both ends,” Haith said. “If there’s going to be a no-call, then there should be no-calls on the other end. That’s the only thing I have conversations with the officials about. Contact is part of the game. If you’re going to let plays go, then you’ve got to let them go at both ends.”
If there was one way KU was going to come back from a 19-point deficit against a team as good as Missouri was going to be at the free throw line. And that is what they did. They were a poor 7-15 from the line in the first half (while Missouri was 8-8). In the second half they made nine straight at one point and went 15-18 (Missouri was 15-18 the WHOLE GAME). That said, there is a lot more than poor officiating that goes into a team coming back from 19 down in the second half. So in now way shape or form, can you blame this game – or any game – on the officials. But, down the stretch the calls certainly did not go Missouri’s way. The foul disparity (22-16, but a 33-18 FT advantage) wasn’t bothersome. Again, you don’t deserve to go to the line shooting jump shots. But, Kansas was allowed to handcheck, bump and ride drivers the entire game. Yet they were also going to the line on touch fouls on the other end. That’s not right. You expect the home team to get calls but…
Kim English has it right. The great philosopher that he is said, “Undoubtedly the referees made some calls/no calls. But we are going to grow and hold ourselves accountable for the mistakes we made. You learn something from each loss and each win throughout the season to prepare for future game situations. We learned and will again. We learned and will grow again.”
“We had the game in our hands,” he added. “We gave them a gift. But We can do absolutely noting about [today]. Focus now shifts to Iowa State immediately.”
Now that I have stepped back off the ledge, this game – labeled as the most-hyped MU-KU basketball game EVER – lived up the the hype. Both games this year did. Two Top 10 showdowns that went down to the wire. Both teams could have swept the season series – and the road teams controlled most of the game both times, playing an “A-Game” and lost. I guess that is why it is the greatest rivalry in college sports. Why should this rivalry NOT continue Kansas? Give me one good reason. Its fitting that the last regular season game as conference foes went an extra five minutes. At that moment, though, I knew the game was certainly over.
But, this game was different. Missouri had played well for a half, or was in the game in the second half a few times during this losing streak in Lawrence, but every time Missouri would fold. Not this time. Marcus Denmon would not let them. Just as he did in Columbia, was cold-blooded and refused to let Mizzou lose.
Kansas had their biggest lead of the game – four points – in OT – he hits a three. Then, twice in the final minute the senior “Golden Gunner” from Kansas City put the Tigers back ahead. Down 83-81, Denmon hits another 3 to put the Tigers ahead by one. Taylor’s backdoor dunk put the Jayhawks (24-5, 14-2 Big 12) back up, 85-84 with 26 seconds remaining. Denmon, well defended, hits a baseline jumper to put the Tigers (25-4, 12-4) back up one with 12 seconds left. After Taylor’s free throws off the mysterious Phil Pressey foul put Kansas up 87-86 with 8.3 seconds remaining, Denmon hit another shot, that would have been the game-winner, but it came about a second too late. Dixon for some reason walked the ball up the court like Mizzou had all day on the final possession and could not get the ball to Denmon in time.
And for those who want to bury Dixon, don’t forget that he scored 15 in the first half and hit several big shots when Missouri needed it. He twice ended 0-for shooting droughts with buckets. Blaming him is silly. That said, I have no idea what he is doing. But the dude is a straight baller and is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 70% from the floor the last eight games.
Kansas got the game into overtime by outscoring Mizzou 24-8 to end regulation. That included a 5-minute scoreless drought and seven minutes without a field goal. Missouri still led by three in the final minute after two Ricardo Ratliffe – who had a monster game – free throws, 75-72. With 16 seconds left in regulation, Robinson back door cuts and gets a very friendly homecourt call with a foul against Dixon, hits the And-1 free throw and ties the game at 75-75. On the ensuing possession, Pressey drives the basket with his left and gets rejected – then destroyed to the ground – by Robinson, with no call, sending the game into OT.
“I want to see that foul,” Haith said afterward.
It appeared after the 16-minute media timeout that Missouri began playing timid. They began playing not to lose rather that to win? Why? What changed? After playing some of the greatest 25 minutes as any opponent in Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era, something changed. But, regardless of the obvious momentum change, Mizzou had gained a point – up 13, 63-50 – in the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second half. Thirty seconds later the Tigers were up 16, 67-51. Then, slowly, the 24-8 run came. It appeared Missouri was attempting to run clock. That is not surprising since Mizzou was in foul trouble and wanted to shorten the game, but they were waiting till 10-12 seconds left on the shot clock and settled for too many jumpers because they did not have enough time to get a great shot. To me, it appeared they went into playing not to lose mode.
Mizzou had their chances. Kudos to Kansas. What an epic comeback. For the first time in a while in Lawrence, the Tigers made Kansas earn it. And, wow, did they. Kansas played great down the stretch – especially on the defensive end – and foul trouble by Missouri led to Kansas making up the deficit on the line while the clock wasn’t even running.
The starts shined brightly again. Denmon was amazing. 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Ricardo Ratliffe scored eight of Missouri’s first 10 points and registered his second straight double-digit rebounding game (12) and scored 22 points and flat out outplayed Robinson in the first half. So much for his 9.5 points per game over the last eight games. The 6-8 senior leads the Big 12 in offensive rebounding. Dixon was brilliant in the first half and finished with 17 points, 6 assists. He rose to the moment in the first meeting with big shots and again this time in the first half, and just failed to do it again in the game’s waning moments. Phil Pressey was just 2-of-8 (both makes in the first half) but he dished out 12 assists and had just turnovers. Him fouling out of the game could have cost Missouri the game. Had he been on the floor for that final possession where Missouri failed to get a shot off, I guarantee you we get a shot off with him running the show. Thomas Robinson scored 28 and had 12 boards, Taylor finished with 24, overcoming his failures in on Feb. 4 (two missed FT, a charge) with two triumphing free throws. It was like a heavyweight title fight and they traded blow after blow. Taylor, Denmon and English (11 points, 6 rebounds) played all but one minute and Dixon played 42 off the bench. He entered the game three minutes in following Matt Pressey’s second foul, and never left the floor.
Denmon scored 57 points in two Border War games this year. Robinson had 53 points, 27 rebounds.
The Kansas bench played some big minutes. Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey and Robinson all spent the end of the first half on the bench. The bench stepped up. Conner Teahan – who has been woeful from three (0-6 Wed @ A&M), went 4-for-4 in scoring 12 points. Justin Wesley and Young picked up the slack down low. Both were an abysmal 1-4 at the free throw line, but Young finished with five points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Withey must have nightmares about Mizzou. After going scoreless in the first meeting with just one shot attempt and four rebounds, he scored just two points and had just one board this time. He was clearly hampered by an ankle injury he suffered in the first half. He did not do the jump ball to start overtime.
Matt Pressey is really struggling for Missouri right now. He did not score and fouled out. Not a great day at the office. Hopefully a breakout game for senior night is in the cards.
Missouri went into Allen Fieldhouse and thought they could win. They played like it too. They were confident and didn’t seem to be fazed by one of the most amazing atmosphere’s EVER. They outrebounded Kansas 36-32, 11-9 offensively, has 12 assists on 15 makes in the first half and had 22 to KU’s 16.
“These guys played their hearts out. They left everything on the court,” Mizzou coach Frank Haith said. “I read everything. We weren’t supposed to be in the game. We weren’t supposed to be in the game today. These guys came out and competed.”
In the end, one of Missouri’s best season still isn’t good enough to win the Big 12 and Kansas – even though they don’t seem as good as usual – is 14-2 and won another Big 12 title.
It is not very often that I say I want another shot at Kansas. But this year I do. How fitting would a rubber match be in Kansas City for the Big 12 Postseason title. Most would be surprised if we don’t see Border War 2012, v 3.0, in the Big 12 tournament championship game, especially now with Kansas State likely not on the Tigers’ side of the bracket.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with that. I wouldn’t mind playing them,” Taylor said. “Sign me up.”
English added, “I don’t care if we play Fort Hays State to win the Big 12. We want to win three games and win the big 12 tournament. I don’t care who we play.”
Hell, they could face each two more times. And if they are anything like the first two, we are in for a treat. If this is it, the last time they ever play, its a shame. But what a way for it to end, two epic games for the ages, that we will likely tell our grandchildren about.
“Players on the court played their hearts out. Let the fans have fun, I don’t care,” English said when asked how the rivalry should be remembered. “We played our hearts out, they played their hearts out, they won the game. We have no control over the prior 100 years. We have control over these past four seasons. Players played their hearts out, their players played their hearts out, our coaches gave it their all. I don’t care how you remember it.”
We have got to enjoy to Final Four caliber teams battle toe-to-toe for 85 minutes, with Missouri outscoring Kansas 160-158. It doesn’t get much closer than that.
“We saw the best they had to offer, they saw the best we had to offer, and it’s sad to see it end, but playing once a year with nothing in it doesn’t mean as much,” Self said.
“Maybe the last time we play. I think that would be sad if you saw the atmosphere out here today and the atmosphere in our place,” Haith said. “It would be sad if we don’t play. I just don’t understand it and hopefully we can get to it and we’ll continue to play. I think it’s too good of a game and too good of a rivalry not to play.”
And for you Kansas fans that think the Hawks are clearly better must not have watched the same game I did. Teams are about as close to each other as you can get. Personally going into the game, I thought Kansas was better. Yes, they lost. But teams dont stroll into LowRents and lead by 19. Missouri did that. I don’t think Kansas is the better team anymore.
Kansas can lock up the Big 12 title with one win this week. Oklahoma State (14-15, 7-9) will be tough on Big Monday tomorrow night, a team that is 5-2 at home so far this year with wins over Missouri, Iowa State and Texas. Following that is Texas (18-11, 8-8) who is fighting for their NCAA tournament life and is the last team to win in Lawrence.
For Missouri, there is still plenty to play for. A number 1 seed is still possible if they win out, winning the Big 12 Tournament. A win over Kansas along the way will help. That would get the Tigers to 30-4. Is that No. 1 seed worthy? In my opinion, Kansas and Missouri both deserve a 1-seed over any ACC team. Only one will get it. Both could be two seeds.
“This loss will not define our season,” English said. “This isn’t football. We aren’t out of the national championship running with a regular season loss.”
It starts Wednesday with a home date with a tough Iowa State (21-8, 11-5) squad that is coming off a big win in Manhattan on Saturday, completing the season sweep. Now, the Tigers have their chance to sweep the Clones. They escaped Ames with a win the first time. It will be an emotional senior night for the winningest class in Mizzou history.
“My class’ last game in Mizzou Arena. I have enjoyed the ride, but we have a lot of ride left,” English said.
|Ricardo Ratliffe, F||27||8-13||0-0||6-6||7||12||0||0||1||1||4||22|
|Marcus Denmon, G||44||10-15||6-10||2-2||0||5||2||2||0||1||1||28|
|Kim English, G||44||4-12||2-6||1-2||1||6||1||1||0||2||2||11|
|Phil Pressey, G||33||2-8||1-3||3-4||1||3||12||2||0||2||5||8|
|Matt Pressey, G||15||0-2||0-1||0-0||0||2||1||1||0||2||5||0|
|Steve Moore, C||20||0-0||0-0||0-0||2||7||0||0||0||1||2||0|
|Michael Dixon, G||42||6-15||2-9||3-4||0||1||6||1||0||0||3||17|
|Thomas Robinson, F||38||10-21||0-0||8-9||2||12||0||1||1||2||3||28|
|Jeff Withey, C||9||1-1||0-0||0-0||1||1||0||0||0||0||2||2|
|Tyshawn Taylor, G||44||7-13||3-7||7-8||0||4||5||0||1||1||3||24|
|Travis Releford, G||34||1-7||0-3||5-8||2||3||2||2||0||1||0||7|
|Elijah Johnson, G||29||3-6||2-5||0-0||0||2||8||0||0||0||4||8|
|Conner Teahan, G||37||4-4||4-4||0-0||0||1||1||1||0||3||1||12|
|Kevin Young, F||28||2-6||0-0||1-4||3||8||0||0||4||2||3||5|
|Justin Wesley, F||6||0-0||0-0||1-4||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||1|
Officials: Mark Whitehead, Gerry Pollard, Brent Meaux
The Trib: Another Border War classic, hopefully not the last
KC Star: KU rallies for epic comeback Border War win
KC Star: KU comeback salvages historic day at Allen Fieldhouse
KC Star: Marcus Denmon gives Mizzou an edge when game is on the line
KC Star: Missouri feels pain of victory that slipped away
KC Star: Border War notebook | Jeff Withey injures ankle; Mike Dixon unhappy
KC Star: Five games, personalities that defined Border War basketball
KC Star (Joe Posnanski): We won’t see a rivalry like this again
But this wasn’t any other game. This was the last time. Unlike many, I don’t really blame anyone for this ending. These are the times we live in. You can’t really blame Missouri for jumping into a great conference like the SEC. You can’t really blame Kansas for feeling a bit betrayed and for not wanting to play Missouri anymore (“We’re in Missouri’s past,” Self said. “They have to look to the future and so do we.”). You can’t stop progress or time. What is that line from the play “Inherit the Wind” about airplanes? “Mister you can conquer the air, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.”
Mister, you can make college sports bigger and bigger, make more and more money, reach larger and larger audiences … but the conferences will look like gibberish and Kansas won’t play basketball against Missouri anymore.
When it ended, sure, there was some emptiness. Which takes us back to that kid holding the sign. He was across the court, so it was difficult for me to see him, but from what I can tell he looked to be maybe 18 or 19, and he was decked out in Kansas colors. His sign said: “KU Won’t MIZZ-you.”
And you know, it was relatively clever, as far as signs go. But something about it bothered me. I did want to walk over to him and whisper in his ear: “Yeah, you will, kid. You will miss Missouri. You will miss all this more than you can ever know.
The atmosphere Saturday was impossible to describe with words. Words do not adequately replicate the experience of absorbing the noise that topped 120 decibels at five or six points in this thrilling contest. This is like having your nose pressed against the hull of a 757 aircraft with the jet engines going full-bore for two hours. My ears still are ringing, and I want more. I want a lot more. I want this rivalry to keep going like a Groundhog Day dream, because this installment of the Border War might have been the finest of them all.
This is one of those games that disproves the silly theories from some folks that the college basketball regular season is meaningless. Tell that to the fans from both sides who turned Mizzou Arena and Allen Fieldhouse into the loudest places on earth.
Lawrence Journal-World: Kansas claims epic win in Border War finale
Lawrence Journal-World: Thomas Robinson ‘great’ against Tigers
Lawrence Journal-World: The end of the Border War in the words of former KU players
Lawrence Journal-World: Tiger coach laments War’s end
Rock Chalk Talk: A Fun Way To End a Great Rivalry
The Dagger: Kansas and Missouri shouldn’t let rivalry end out of spite
There are certainly valid reasons why the Border War is in jeopardy after more than a century’s worth of heated matchups.
Kansas supporters blame Missouri because the Tigers are the ones leaving the Big 12 for the money and stability of the SEC in the fall. Missouri backers say it’s Kansas’ fault since the jilted Jayhawks have stubbornly refused to accept the Tigers’ offer to continue the rivalry as non-league foes.
But while Missouri may thrive in the SEC without the Jayhawks and Kansas may continue to be a perennial national power without the Tigers, both programs are better off when they’re playing each other. How many other rivalries in the country could generate as many history-making moments in one game as Saturday’s matchup did?
ESPN.com: Rapid Reaction: Kansas 87, Mizzou 86 (OT)
KBIA Sports Extra: Mizzou loses to Kansas 87-86 in final rivalry, key Big 12 game
Fox Sports MW: Tigers show two sides in loss to Kansas
Hank’s Sports Blog: Beware the Phog: Kansas erases 19-point deficit to stun Missouri in overtime