Kansas-Missouri Preview

Kansas won’t have much on the line in its regular-season finale,

but it should have plenty of motivation.

Fresh off a lopsided victory over one Big 12 rival, the

second-ranked Jayhawks will try to finish with a win over another

when they visit Missouri on Saturday.

Kansas (28-2, 14-1) enters the game having clinched a school

record-tying sixth straight conference title after toppling No. 5

Kansas State 82-65 on Wednesday night. The Jayhawks, who will next

attempt to earn their fourth Big 12 tournament title in five years,

have also all but wrapped up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA

tournament.

That doesn’t mean they’ll take it easy Saturday.

“It’s big for pride and for the rivalry because it is Missouri

and you do not want to lose,” junior guard Brady Morningstar said.

“We are going to go out there with a mindset of that.”

The Tigers (22-8, 10-5), meanwhile, have plenty to play for as

one of four teams jockeying for the second-through-fourth spots in

the Big 12. The top four teams earn automatic byes into the

conference tournament quarterfinals.

Missouri, which won its first Big 12 tournament title last

season, stayed in the race for a bye Tuesday night by beating Iowa

State 69-67 in overtime on the road when senior guard Zaire Taylor

raced down the floor and banked in a layup at the buzzer.

Last season, Taylor’s 10-foot jumper with 1.3 seconds left

lifted the then-No. 17 Tigers to a 62-60 home victory over the

16th-ranked Jayhawks.

That was the only win in the last eight matchups of this rivalry

for Missouri. However, the Tigers are 5-0 at Mizzou Arena on Senior

Days and have won four straight home games against ranked

opponents.

To keep those streaks going, they’ll likely need better play

from their frontcourt – despite the fact they won’t have junior

forward Justin Safford available.

In an 84-65 drubbing at Kansas on Jan. 25, the Jayhawks had a

56-28 rebounding advantage and outscored Missouri 36-18 in the

paint. Cole Aldrich (12 points, 16 rebounds), Marcus Morris

(team-best 17 points, nine rebounds) and Morris’ twin brother,

Markieff (nine points, 11 rebounds) led the way for Kansas.

They also forced the Tigers into 27.9 percent shooting from the

field – their worst performance in 10 seasons. Safford had a

team-best 19 points and seven rebounds, but is now out with a torn

left ACL.

“It probably hurts them most from a depth standpoint than

anything else because Missouri’s not the biggest team,” Kansas

coach Bill Self said. “They’re not physically as big and he’s

probably as physical a guy as they have.”

Self’s team could also benefit from a resurgent Xavier Henry.

The freshman guard was in the middle of a slump the first time he

faced Missouri, averaging 6.2 points on 30.6 percent over five

games.

Henry has bounced back to average 18 points on 54.3 percent

shooting over the past seven games, and scored a team-leading 19 in

the win over Kansas State.

To have a good chance at the upset, Missouri will likely need

leading scorer Kim English to break out of his slump. The sophomore

guard, scoring 14.1 points per game, has averaged 8.8 on 31 percent

shooting in the last four games.