Mario Little's brief KU career seemed like it might be over on Dec. 16 when he was arrested on…
No. 2 KU improved to 23-1 and 8-1 in Big 12 play, while No. 19 Missouri dropped to 18-6 and 4-5 in the Big 12.
Marcus Morris led five Jayhawks in double figures with a game-high 22 points, including 17 in the second half, while Mario Little scored a career-high 17 points (12 in first half) on 7-of-9 shooting and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. Markieff Morris (16), Tyshawn Taylor (13) and Travis Releford (10) also hit double digits.
After the Morris twins scored KU's first 10 points (Marcus had eight) in the second half to extend KU's 46-42 halftime lead to 56-46, the Jayhawks caught fire from downtown. KU made five of its next six three-pointers to break open the game. Tyrel Reed swished the Jayhawks' fifth three ball, giving Kansas its largest lead of the game, 80-63, with 9:41 remaining.
"A lot of those threes kind of knock you back," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
Little hit a back-breaking three-pointer with the shot clock winding down with 12:24 left, upping KU's lead to 72-60.
And the Jayhawks kept on rolling.
Appropriately enough, it was another three-pointer (by Reed) that gave KU 100 points, its second time hitting the century mark this season and first since beating Longwood in the season opener, 113-75.
With KU swishing threes and Marcus Morris going to work inside, the Jayhawks shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half. Kansas finished the game shooting 60.7 percent and 57.9 percent from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks also enjoyed a 38-21 margin on the boards, and had 19 second-chance points to MU's 12.
KU coach Bill Self was glad to see his team elevate its game after a subpar first half.
"I thought Missouri played really well the first half," Self said. "I thought they outplayed us and we were fortunate to be up four just because Mario made some shots and Travis made a good play at the end of the half (a jumper with nine seconds left). We didn't play very well in the first half, we didn't really guard them. Of course, they are very quick.
"I thought the second half we played really well. I thought it was a very good team playing in the second half."
MU held the crowd in check early by bringing its ‘A' game with sizzling shooting from forwards Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe, who shot a combined 6-of-6 from the field as the Tigers built a 20-14 lead. But the Jayhawks came charging back and the Phog caught fire as Little's three-pointer with 8:52 remaining before halftime gave KU a 26-23 lead. Little hit another three, followed by a dunk from Thomas Robinson off a fast break to give KU its largest lead of the half, 41-36, with 2:36 left.
Little was a huge spark in the first half with 12 points, while Markieff Morris added 10.
"I just made shots early," Little said. "I came in and shot before the game, so I felt good. The first one went down and I just felt comfortable."
"Tonight he was feeling it and of course he bailed us out," Self said.
Bowers led five Tigers in double figures with 19 points. Bowers, Ratliffe, and guard Phil Pressey all fouled out.
After shooting 57.7 percent in the first half, Missouri shot 46.9 percent in the second half and 51.7 percent for the game. The Tigers' are just the third KU opponent in the last 134 games to shoot better than 50 percent. MU's 86 points were also the most by a KU foe since Syracuse defeated Kansas 89-81 on Nov. 25, 2008, and the most by a conference opponent since a 100-90 KU win over Baylor on Feb. 9, 2008.
Self and the players were not happy with the team's defense.
"They hung 86 points; that's horrible for us," Marcus Morris said. "For someone to come in your house and score 86 points is not a good job. We have to keep getting better on defense because our offense is getting better."
On the bright spot, KU got great play from its bench and another impressive performance by Brady Morningstar (eight points, seven assists, two steals and no turnovers in 38 minutes), who started his second straight game in place of the injured Josh Selby.
"You look at the difference in the game and it was the sixth, seventh and eighth man (Releford, Little and Thomas Robinson) going 14-of-17 from the field," Self said. "I don't think there are a lot of teams that have that luxury."
KU's cause was helped by the fact that Missouri never really brought its "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" to Allen Fieldhouse Monday night. The Jayhawk fans, meanwhile, showed MU the "Loudest 20 Minutes in Basketball" during the second half.
"This is probably the most hostile environment in the nation," Bowers said.
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