Published November 20, 2014
The game was there for Kansas to take.
In what could be the Jayhawks' final game at Missouri, the No. 4 Tigers scored the final 11 points in the last 2:05 to come from behind and beat their archrivals 74-71 on Saturday night for only the second time in the last 12 meetings.
Tyshawn Taylor drove the baseline for a dunk with 3:21 remaining to give Kansas a 71-63 lead. But Missouri (21-2, 8-2 Big 12) stormed back as Marcus Denmon hit three 3-pointers down the stretch, the last for the go-ahead points.
Denmon scored 29 points, two off his career best, and ended a long-range shooting slump with a career-best six 3-pointers in nine attempts.
The go-ahead 3 came with 56 seconds to go for a one-point lead. Michael Dixon added a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left after an offensive foul on Taylor and Kansas' Elijah Johnson missed badly on a shot to tie it at the buzzer.
Kansas committed four turnovers in the final 2:22 and Taylor missed two free throws with 41.3 seconds remaining to let the Tigers back into the game.
"I feel like I cost us the game," said Taylor, who had 21 points.
Thomas Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds for Kansas (18-5, 8-2), including 19 points in the second half.
Kansas was scoreless the final 3:20 after Taylor dunked for a 71-63 lead.
"We let up on the gas and they hit shots," Robinson said. "Big shots. We didn't guard as tough as we did the last three minutes the way we did the whole second half."
Missouri's impending departure for the SEC added spice to the final conference meeting in Columbia, Mo. The teams meet again in Lawrence on Feb. 25 for the 267th time in the series before taking an indefinite pause as Missouri heads to the Southeastern Conference after the season.
"This crowd was incredible," first-year Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "I think we don't win this game without their energy and what they brought to the table. It was just absolutely amazing."
Missouri is 13-0 at home, and this was the closest call by far for a team that has usually dominated. The previous smallest margin was 11 points over Texas last month.
Under Haith, the Tigers beat Kansas for the first time since 2009. Kansas coach Bill Self fell to 17-4 against Missouri.
Denmon had been just 5 for 31 from 3-point range the previous five games, and was held to six points on 3 for 12 overall shooting in a one-point victory at Texas on Monday, and had been spending extra time in the gym working on the shot. He hit all three 3-point attempts in a 16-point first half, helping Missouri take a 39-34 lead.
"We did a really good job of finding me in spots where I was fortunate to make shots," Denmon said. "I think we did it on the defensive end, even though we made shots at the end."
The border matchup prompted plenty of extra adrenaline, some of it provided by a pumped-up sound system. Missouri mascot Truman the Tiger descended from the ceiling via cable, a nod to the every-night tradition at the old Hearnes Center, and prep-game festivities featured fireworks that left an acrid stench hovering over the court much of the first half.
Fans began camping out Wednesday night to get a spot for ESPN's GameDay, and at least 1,000 students were poised to charge for favorable seating when the gates opened 1½ hours prior to tip-off. Fans on one side of the arena stayed on their feet throughout the game, as opposed to taking their seat after Missouri's first basket.
There was little out-of-line behavior, other than a fan heaving what appeared to be a rolled-up T-shirt onto the court after Ricardo Ratliffe was whistled for his fourth foul with 6:22 to go.
The rematch is Feb. 25 in Lawrence, Kan. It also could also be the final meeting between the schools for a while with bad feelings from Missouri's decision to leave for the SEC.
"I will say this: So much has been made about the hatred and that stuff," Self said. "Hey, this is hard for me to say to Missouri people, but I thought tonight that was about as classy an atmosphere as there is. I hope it'll be the same way when they come over to our place. I'm sure it will be."