No. 8 Kansas roars past Mizzou 102-65 in Border War’s return
It took nearly a decade for Kansas and Missouri to renew the Border War.
It took about 10 minutes for the Jayhawks to turn it into a border rout.
Ochai Agbaji scored 21 points, Christian Braun and Dajuan Harris had 13 apiece, and the eighth-ranked Jayhawks rolled to a 102-65 win over the Tigers on Saturday in the first meeting of the longtime Big 12 rivals as nonconference opponents.
David McCormack added 11 points and Remy Martin 10 for the Jayhawks (8-1), who have won eight of the past nine games in a series that began in 1907 but hadn’t been played since the Tigers departed the Big 12 after the 2012 season.
“Did it feel different walking out there? Absolutely,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “There’s something about Mizzou and a few others on our schedule, only those guys can bring the type of energy that existed today.”
Javon Pickett led sloppy, poor-shooting Missouri (5-5) with 19 points. DaJuan Gordon had 11 and leading scorer Kobe Brown, hounded all afternoon by the Jayhawks’ man-to-man defense, finished with five points and six rebounds.
“I used to watch this game on TV but never really understood it,” Pickett said. “I knew it was a big game, but it was just another game to me when I was younger. It was a great atmosphere, though. Super loud.”
Hundreds of students representing groups of up to 20 each began camping out nearly a week in advance of the game, all angling for the best seat for the renewal of a rivalry that traces its bitter start to the pre-Civil War days.
But while the era of pro-slavery Missouri raiders quarreling with anti-slavery “Jayhawkers” from Kansas is relegated to the history books, the animosity harbored by fans of the Tigers and Jayhawks is still very real — even though the two programs had not played in nearly a decade, since Missouri decided to chase football riches to the SEC.
Its move left the Big 12 on such unsteady footing that Self simply refused to schedule the Tigers anymore.
His stance softened over time, though, and the schools played a 2017 exhibition to raise money for hurricane relief. They later agreed to a six-game series that was delayed a year by the pandemic. But it wasn’t until Saturday, with the winter sun shining through the clerestory windows of Allen Fieldhouse, that they finally took to the floor together.
Dozens of former players showed up to watch, lending the game a feeling of nostalgia.
“There is an unspoken level of pride. They’ve played in these games, watched other teams play in these games,” Agbaji said. “We didn’t say much to them but we just gave each other that kind of look, like, ‘Go take care of business.'”
As usual, the 270th meeting of Kansas and Missouri had a bit of everything.
There were vulgar chants from Kansas students and silencing buckets from Pickett and the Tigers’ Trevon Brazile. There were alley-oop dunks by McCormack, fast-break slams by Braun and a first-half run by Kansas that included a technical foul on Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin, whose first taste of the Border War was a bitter one.
The Tigers had been waiting 3,577 days to avenge their last heartbreaking loss to Kansas.
They sure didn’t put up the same kind of fight Saturday.
The Jayhawks opened with an 11-3 run, pushed their advantage to double digits after about seven minutes, then closed the first half on a 13-2 run, storming up the tunnel and into their locker room with a 49-27 advantage.
“They’re a really good team,” Brown said. “They came out and did what we thought they would do.”
The Jayhawks had no intention of going easy on Missouri in the second half, either.
Agbaji followed his first half-ending 3-pointer with one to start the second, and Harris — a native of Columbia, Missouri — and Remy Martin added two more in quick succession, tipping the lead over 30 after just a few minutes.
Kansas eventually scored on its first nine possessions of the second half before coasting to the finish.
“We haven’t heard that in a long time, that amount of passion in here,” Braun said. “Some of those students camped out for a week to watch this. We had to give them something in return. We had to match their passion and energy.”
Missouri didn’t compose itself well in a hostile environment. Along with Cuonzo Martin’s technical foul, 7-foot-3 center Jordan Wilmore got one for clocking Mitch Lightfoot in the jaw with an elbow midway through the second half.
Kansas scored 22 points off 20 turnovers. It shot 56% from the field and went 14 of 27 from beyond the arc. It won the battle of the boards, second-chance points and fast-break baskets. In other words, it was complete domination.
The Tigers play Utah and the Jayhawks face Stephen F. Austin next Saturday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25