Lawrence, KS – Eyeing up an unprecedented eighth straight Big ranked Kansas Jayhawks welcome the third-ranked Missouri Tigers to Lawrence for an obviously crucial conference showdown at the Allen Fieldhouse in yet another edition of the Border Showdown series.
Bill Self's Jayhawks hold a one-game lead over Missouri in the conference standings and with a victory today would double that lead and earn at least a share of the league title with two games to play. Bill Self's squad brings a five-game win streak into this contest after knocking off Texas A&M this week in College Station, 66-58.
Frank Haith's first season in Columbia has been highly successful, as the Tigers are an impressive 25-3 overall and 12-3 in-conference. However, Missouri dropped its first game at home with a 78-68 loss to Kansas State this week, putting the Tigers one game back with just three to play.
This marks the 267th meeting in s series that dates back to 1907. The Jayhawks have won five of the last six meetings and hold a 171-95 advantage in the series all-time. However, the Tigers are seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a 74-71 decision in Columbia back on February 4th.
The Tigers may not be big, sporting a four-guard set in the starting lineup, but they make up for it with superior scoring ability. Missouri comes into this contest netting nearly 80 points per game (79.5) and is doing so thanks to a healthy .498 shooting percentage. Guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English lead the way with their long range acumen. Denmon currently leads the team with 17.8 ppg, followed by English's 14.0 ppg. The pair have combined for 140 of the team's 223 three-pointers to date. Forward Ricardo Ratliffe (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) gives the team a presence in the frontcourt, while Michael Dixon (12.9 ppg) is the catalyst off the bench. Point guard Phil Pressey can score (9.9 ppg) but is also charged with getting the ball into the right hands. He ranks second in the Big 12 in assists at 6.0 per game.
The Tigers struggled to find their groove early on and shot a mere .345 from the floor in the first half and trailed by 10 at the break. They were never able to recover in the 10-point loss to Kansas State. Dixon led the team in scoring with 21 points, thanks in large part to a 9-of-10 showing from the free-throw line. Denmon poured in 19 points, while Ratliffe and English tallied nine points apiece. The Tigers finished the game at a mere .383 shooting, compared to a solid .538 performance by the Wildcats.
Elijah Johnson netted a game-high 21 points and Thomas Robinson recorded his Big 12-leading 19th double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, as Kansas moved one step closer to the Big 12 title with its win over A&M. Tyshawn Taylor and Jeff Withey had solid outings as well for Kansas, tacking on 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Kansas has the ability to win games at either end of the floor, as evidenced by its impressive +14.3 scoring margin. The team is extremely efficient, converting 48.3 percent from the field, while limiting foes to just 37.8 percent. It all starts with Robinson's play down low. On the short list for National Player of the Year honors, Robinson ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring (17.4 ppg) and first in rebounding (11.9 rpg). Taylor provides a perfect complement with his playmaking ability, as he can both score (fifth in the conference at 16.5 ppg) and get others involved (5.0 apg). Withey (9.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) has asserted himself of late and could be a real asset in the postseason.