Missouri falls to Kansas 93-87 in “Showdown For Relief” charity exhibition

Missouri fans got their first taste of a team that looks radically different from last year’s squad.

Jontay Porter, freshman, attempts to box out Kansas sophomore Lagerald Vick in the "Showdown for Relief" on Oct. 22.

On the schedule it was a meaningless game, a charity exhibition that served as an opportunity for both teams to iron out the kinks that inevitably come early in a basketball season.

But don’t tell that to Missouri and Kansas’ basketball teams.

Missouri had excellent 3-point shooting in the first half but was unable to match Kansas’ depth and experience in the second, falling 93-87 to the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Sunday.

The game was the first matchup between the two teams since Feb. 25, 2012, when Kansas rallied from 19 down to beat Missouri in overtime in Lawrence, Kansas.

All proceeds from the game, dubbed the “Showdown For Relief,” went to various charities to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in Houston, parts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Between ticket sales and pay-per-view purchases, the event raised about $2.47 million. In-game donations from fans totaled more than $50,000.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said he was excited to raise money for charity and have the opportunity to play the game but was a little disappointed with his team’s defensive performance.

“The effort was there, but I thought we had a lot of breakdowns defensively,” Martin said. “There were some areas where we had a breakdown because we hadn’t spent a lot of time on it, but I thought we didn’t do a very good job until the last five or six minutes left in the game [defensively].”

Although both teams struggled defensively and turned the ball over nine times each in the first half, Missouri was much better at converting the turnovers and additional opportunities afforded by offensive rebounds into points. The Tigers had 16 second-chance points compared to the Jayhawks’ four in the first half, giving them just enough of an edge for a 44-40 lead going into the break.

It was all Kansas in the second half, however. The Jayhawks made an offensive adjustment to start driving the ball into the paint more often, and the Tigers’ young big men simply couldn’t handle the aggressiveness. Forty-three percent of the Jayhawks’ points came from within the paint, and when they didn’t score there, they dished the ball out to wide-open shooters on the perimeter for easy 3-point looks.

Freshman Michael Porter Jr. had 21 points to pace the Tigers, despite shooting just 6 for 20 from the field. A consensus top player in the class of 2017, Porter Jr. did look like a freshman on occasion, turning the ball over three times. But he also showed plenty of the poise, shooting ability and athleticism that has made him a standout NBA prospect.

Porter Jr. said he was frustrated with how he played.

“I was pretty disappointed with my personal performance,” Porter Jr. said. “I felt like there were a lot more things I could’ve done for the team, so I’m kind of putting this loss on myself a little bit.”

Freshman forward Jeremiah Tilmon was perhaps Missouri’s most impressive player. Although he was the beneficiary of a predetermined rule that gave each individual player seven personal fouls to work with instead of five, the 6-foot-10 East St. Louis product was all over the floor, collecting rebounds, dishing out passes to shooters on the perimeter and collecting a couple of putback dunks. He fouled out with 5:52 remaining in the game.

Senior Jordan Barnett, who added 19 points of his own in 31 minutes in the loss, said Tilmon played exceptionally well in his first NCAA action.

“He was a beast down there [in the paint],” Barnett said. “He was active on the offensive and defensive glass, and that’s what we need from him and preach to him all the time. He showed us a lot.”

While Missouri’s big men were impressive, the team’s guards were not. The combination of freshmen C.J. Roberts and Blake Harris and junior Terrence Phillips did not match up well with Kansas’ senior guard Devonte’ Graham, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. Graham’s 25 points led the Jayhawks, as Missouri was unable to prevent the potential first-round NBA draft pick from dictating the pace of the game.

Missouri’s only antidote to Graham was postgraduate transfer Kassius Robertson, who had 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting and led the team with 33 minutes played. Martin said he was happy with how his elder statesman ran the floor and directed traffic for Missouri.

“I thought Kassius played a really good floor game,” Martin said. “He’s an experienced guy and understands what we’re trying to do from a defensive standpoint because he’s been there before. I thought he was solid across the board.“

Overall, Martin said he was happy to have the opportunity to play such a quality opponent in the preseason on a big stage and that the film generated from the exhibition will be valuable for his team going forward.

“Unfortunately we didn’t win the game, but I think we can only get better from it,” Martin said. “It’’ll be great film to look at, and we’ll continue to push forward.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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