The No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks will renew acquaintances with former Big 12 foe Missouri when they host the Tigers on Saturday.
This longstanding rivalry had been one of the best in college basketball before Missouri moved to the Southeastern Conference. The Jayhawks (7-1) and Tigers (5-4) haven’t played a regular season game since 2012.
“I would assume that there won’t be a lot of empty seats,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It’s the best game on our schedule. You can talk about Kentucky or Baylor or Texas or this one, this is the best game on our schedule, at least from a fan participation and from a player participation. We haven’t played ’em in nine years and back when we did play them, it was the best game on our schedule.”
The Jayhawks rolled to a 78-52 victory over UTEP on Tuesday in Kansas City with Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun combining for 43 points. Agbaji (22.6 points per game) and Braun (16.8) have been driving the offense all season.
“I thought the first half we were really good defensively,” Self said. “Our offense was poor tonight, without question. But it looked like we played good offense because we scored so many points off our defense in the first half. So I thought our defense was pretty good.”
Self was pleased that his team did enough to win the game despite all the buzz back at Allen Fieldhouse for the Missouri game.
“Monday morning, we left to come over here, guys showed up at noon I guess to lift,” Self said. “And there was well over a hundred camping groups already. Which means over 2,000 students are already waiting there since Monday morning, and that number will go to 150 or 200.
“So we’re telling them how important this game is, but they’re thinking about what’s getting ready to happen on Saturday. I think they handled it OK, but they’re excited for Saturday. I’m sure Mizzou is as well.”
The Tigers are coming off a 72-44 victory over Eastern Illinois at home, but their offense has struggled this season. They are shooting just 24.6 percent from 3-point range and averaging more turnovers (14.6 per game) than assists (11.9) this season.
Kobe Brown (14.8 points, 9.8 rebounds per game) and Amari Davis (11.8 points) have had good starts to the season, but they haven’t gotten much help.
And now the Tigers have games against Kansas, Utah, Illinois and Kentucky awaiting them before the New Year.
“I’d simply say it’s a street fight from this point on,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I mean, as a player, as a coach, I love it. I look forward to it. That’s why you do this. I wouldn’t want it any other way if I was a player. Tremendous opportunities, and we’ll be ready to battle.”
Missouri will finally be up to full strength with 6-foot-9 Trevon Brazile joining the frontcourt after gaining medical clearance. He missed the first eight games as Martin was forced to use smaller lineups.
–Field Level Media