Preview: Missouri hosts rival Kansas to close regular season

The Tigers are a perfect 17-0 at Mizzou Arena this season but face a 28-2 Kansas team.
Kansas guard Sherron Collins fends off sophomore guard Michael Dixon on March 6, 2010 during the two teams’ last meeting at Mizzou Arena. Kansas took down Missouri 77-56 in March 2010 and by a score of 103-86 when the teams met for the first time this season Feb. 7.

The Border War between Missouri and Kansas was born in much more than sport. The rivalry can be traced back to violent disputes with roots in the Civil War, with Columbia and Lawrence often at the forefront of this violence. Today, the competition continues through athletic competition.

The Tigers and Jayhawks have competed in the three major college sports for over a century. Missouri holds the all-time lead in baseball and the two are practically tied in football. But when it comes to basketball, Kansas has the upper hand; the Jayhawks lead the all-time series 170-94.

As for recent history, the Kansas basketball program has been a top 10 team year in and year out. But the Tigers have always found ways to overcome, especially when the conflict takes place inside Mizzou Arena.

Missouri will host Kansas on Saturday in its last regular season contest. It will be the second straight year the Tigers close the season against the Jayhawks and two years since they last beat them in Columbia.

Kansas junior forward Markieff Morris knows how bad Missouri wants to defend their home turf.

“Everybody plays with a chip on their shoulder at home and Kansas-Missouri is always going to be a big game,” Morris said at a Kansas news conference Thursday. “It’s always tough to beat them there, and I think they are a very talented team who can score the ball very well.”

This year, Missouri hung with Kansas at its place, scoring 83 points in the loss at Allen Fieldhouse. Now, the No. 2 Jayhawks will bring their 28-2 record to Mizzou Arena.

Kansas has won four straight since being upset at Kansas State. Missouri has dropped two in a row on the road in the last week to fall to 8-7 in conference.

The Tigers remain the only Big 12 team undefeated at home. Saturday will be their chance to stay perfect, but it will also be their toughest challenge at home of the season.

Junior forward Laurence Bowers preaches short-term memory for the Tigers.

"We're even keel right now," Bowers said during a postgame news conference after the Tigers' loss to Nebraska Tuesday. "We can't think about how we just lost two games. We have a very good team coming Saturday. We've got to turn our attention to (them) and start our peak right here."

There is a reason Kansas has just two losses in 30 games: They are the most effective and efficient offensive force in the country. The Jayhawks own the nation’s best field goal percentage this year at just over 52 percent shooting. They also lead all teams in assists with 18.3 per game. To top it all off, their 83.1 points per game is fourth overall.

At the forefront of the Kansas attack are their twin junior forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris. The brothers lead the team in scoring and are both shooting around 60 percent on the season. The two average a combined 30.7 points per game for Kansas.

Kansas coach Bill Self knows his team can handle Missouri’s fastest forty minutes in basketball, but he hopes the fast play doesn’t lead to another high-scoring shootout between the two teams.

“They want to play fast, and we want to play fast,” Self said. “But just because you give up points doesn’t mean you don’t guard. That’s a misnomer because there are so many more possessions in fast-paced games. More possessions usually produce more points, but we have to do a better job defensively.”

Tipoff in Columbia is set for 11 a.m. Saturday. With the regular season wrapped up, next up for the teams will be the Big 12 Tournament, which begins next week.

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