During his weekly press conference, Kansas head coach Bill Self said that you can throw out the records whenever his squad and Missouri lock up because of the intense rivalry. Considering that Mizzou had scored a come from behind overtime victory just over a month ago, his thought process made plenty of sense despite that fact that Missouri was being coached by an interim coach, Melvin Watkins, after Quin Snyder resigned last week.
Even with his young and hungry team looking for redemption, and a virtual media circus created around the Missouri program after Snyder’s sudden resignation, Self couldn’t have predicted what his Jayhawks would end up doing to Missouri in a 79-46 blowout Saturday afternoon in Lawrence.
Just prior to tipoff, the game looked and felt like a classic Kansas-Missouri showdown. 16,300 fans were on their feet making noise, former Kansas greats like Kirk Hinrich, Wayne Simien and Steve Woodberry were seated behind the Jayhawk bench and the CBS cameras were ready to roll. Then the game started and the atmosphere, and ultimately Missouri, died quickly as the Tigers turned the ball all over the place and Kansas raced to a 9-2 lead by the first media timeout.
“We were at the barber shop last night and we thought that we could dub them. That means win by 20,” said sophomore guard Russell Robinson who finished with 10 points, four assists and six steals. “We just came out and did the right things today.”
When freshman Brandon Rush connected on a deep jumper with 5:25 to go in the first half, he extended Kansas’ lead to a first half high of 19 points. By that point in the game, the six-foot-six inch guard from Kansas City had scored as many points as the opponents from his home state as the lead stood at 30-11.
Despite a trio of three pointers from Missouri junior guard Thomas Gardner -- who torched Kansas for 40 during their January encounter -- and one from sophomore Jason Horton, the Jayhawks were able to maintain their 19 point advantage as they went into halftime holding a 42-23 lead.
“I think a lot of it was good defense, and I think a lot of it was because they (Missouri) were missing shots,” said Self of his team’s first half effort that limited Missouri to only 20 shots and forced 15 turnovers. “I thought that everybody did some good things out there.”
Self also downplayed the notion that thoughts of revenge may have factored into his team’s hot start.
“Our guys were pretty loose, I think that they would have been ready to play regardless,” said Self of his team who whipped Missouri 41-20 on the boards. “I didn’t think that they were any more ready to play than usual because they are always ready to play.”
The second half started much the same, save for a Jimmy McKinney three just 20 seconds into the half. That field goal would be the last made field goal for the Tigers until Marshall Brown hit another three with 4:39 to go in the second half.
While the Jayhawks held the Tigers without a field goal for 15 minutes, their lead ballooned to as many as 35 points with Mario Chalmers providing much of the offensive punch. The freshman guard scored 11 of his team high 14 points after the intermission and he felt that shutting down Gardner -- 17 points on just 5-17 from the field -- was key.
“We felt like we should have won that game in Columbia,” said Chalmers. “Gardner got hot so we tried to contain him in this game and we really did a good job of that.”
Both up to and after Saturday’s win, several Jayhawks pointed out that part of what cost them in Columbia was that they thought they had the game won and that they let up to soon. This time around there would be none of that.
“Coach, he just told us to kick them in the teeth,” said Rush who finished with 13 points and five rebounds. “He just wanted us to get them down and once we had them down to keep kicking them in the teeth.”
Although he wouldn’t admit to using those exact terms, Self did agree that keeping Missouri down was key.
“I don’t know if I used that exact language,” mused Self. “We just wanted to get them down and keep them down this time.”
Outside of the visitor’s locker room, Watkins credited Kansas for their effort. He was also surprised at his Tigers apparent lack of energy, regardless of how draining it may have been to deal with all the attention caused by Snyder’s resignation.
"It is game day and I expect the guys to have energy no matter who the coach is. We just didn't have the energy today,” said the interim coach. “Kansas just took it to us and that's the way I'm going to look at it. We had looks, plays, travels, we didn't finish plays, or get the ball right to the basket. If you do that, you're going to make it hard on yourself and that's what we did."
Many Kansas players were also surprised by Missouri’s lack of energy and focus. Rush even admitted that there was some joking around with the opponents despite the lopsided score.
“There wasn’t really any trash talking at all. We were all joking around, even them,” said Rush of the on court banter. “I guess they were enjoying getting blown out.”
With their win on Saturday, Kansas has won nine games in a row and 16 of their last eighteen moving them to 19-6 overall and 10-2 in Big 12 conference play. Up next for the Jayhawks is Baylor who visits Lawrence on Tuesday night.