No. 3 Missouri falls to No. 4 Jayhawks 87-86 in OT
LAWRENCE, Kan.—Missouri had built a 19-point lead inside Allen Fieldhouse, making a deafening environment so quiet that the pom-poms of the cheerleaders could be heard from the stands.
As soon as Kansas came to life, so did the old building.
Despite 28 points from Marcus Denmon, including a couple of key shots down the stretch, the No. 3 Tigers couldn't withstand the No. 4 Jayhawks' second-half rally, falling 87-86 in overtime.
"Just the fact this one went to overtime, every play is so big," Denmon said. "We had ample opportunities to close this game and we couldn't do it."
So the Tigers head off to the Southeastern Conference with a bitter taste in their mouths, their 105-year-old rivalry with the Jayhawks ending in dramatic fashion.
"Atmosphere had nothing to do with it," said Kim English, who added 11 points for the Tigers. "It was a game we lost, a game we fought very hard to win."
Missouri had a chance to pull even in the Big 12 with Kansas with two games left in the regular season. Instead, the Tigers had to watch their bitter rivals celebrate an unprecedented eighth consecutive championship, which they guaranteed with their dramatic comeback win.
Thomas Robinson converted a three-point play in the waning moments of regulation to force overtime, and Tyshawn Taylor's two free throws with 8.3 seconds left gave Kansas the lead.
Missouri never got off a potential winning shot -- Michael Dixon was boxed in by Robinson as he tried to get to the basket, and the buzzer eventually sounded on a series steeped in tradition.
"These guys played their hearts out. We left it on the court," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "I read everything -- we weren't supposed to be in the game. We came out and competed."
Robinson finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds for Kansas (24-5, 14-2). Taylor added 24 points and five assists, and Connor Teahan went 4 for 4 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"Just the whole situation combined made it one of the best victories I've been a part of," said Teahan, who was a freshman on the 2008 national championship team.
Ricardo Ratliffe finished with 22 points for Missouri (25-4, 12-4). Dixon added 17.
"We had the game in our hands," English said. "We gave them a gift."
The Tigers were controlling the game in the second half, but Kansas methodically chopped away, Robinson working inside and the Jayhawks taking advantage of the Tigers' foul trouble.
Robinson's basket inside with 2:28 remaining got the Jayhawks within 71-70, and Travis Releford answered a basket by Denmon with two free throws. Ratliffe restored a three-point lead with two foul shots of his own, but the Jayhawks still had time to draw even.
Robinson took a feed in the post and backed down Dixon, getting his leaner to go as he was undercut for the foul. His free throw with 16.1 seconds left tied the game at 75.
"I want to see that foul," Haith said afterward.
The Tigers had the final possession, clearing the lane for Phil Pressey to drive to the rim. But Robinson was there once more, swatting away his shot to force overtime.
"I think I had my eyes closed, to be honest with you," Robinson said.
Kansas struck first in the extra session when Taylor curled in a 3-pointer. Denmon's 3 kept the Tigers close, and another 3 from the wing with 39 seconds left gave them an 84-83 lead.
Taylor pushed Kansas back ahead when he dunked off a bounce pass from Elijah Johnson with 26.2 seconds left, and Denmon's baseline jumper with 12 seconds to go set up some high drama.
As if the series could have ended any other way.
"It's a great rivalry. It's two schools that fiercely don't like each other, hooking up and going after it," Self said. "We saw the best they had to offer, they saw the best we had to offer, and it's sad to see it end, but playing once a year with nothing in it doesn't mean as much."
The schools started playing in 1907, and joined the same conference the following year, setting the stage for more than a century of animosity. There have been bench-clearing brawls, game-winning shots and enough colorful characters to make both sides proud.
But all that will end with the Tigers leaving for the SEC. Officials from Kansas have no intention playing out of conference, feeling as though Missouri jilted fellow members of the Big 12 and nearly brought the league to ruin with their decision to depart.
"This game meant a lot to both schools, both teams -- maybe the last time we play," Haith said. "That'd be sad if you saw the atmosphere out there today, and the atmosphere in our place -- it'd be sad if we don't play. I don't understand it. It's too good of a game."
Students began lining up for prime seats at daybreak last Sunday, and thousands formed a mob outside Allen Fieldhouse leading up to tipoff. They poured into the venerable gym the moment the doors cracked open, working themselves into a wall of noise during player introductions.
The sound registered at 120.2 decibels, roughly equal to that of a jet engine.
The opening few minutes of the 267th meeting lived up to the billing, both teams pounding away at each other with the passion and fury that can only be cultivated over time.
"That was the best atmosphere for a stretch there," Taylor said. "I couldn't even hear."
The lead went back-and-forth until the 4:43 mark, when Johnson picked up his third foul and Pressey's free throws gave Missouri a 33-31 lead. Robinson was called for charging moments later, and Pressey added a 3-pointer to give the Tigers some breathing room.
The lead slowly began to grow, and when Denmon tracked down a loose ball and hit a 3 to close the first half, the Tigers had built a 44-32 lead.
The lead swelled to 19 points before Kansas started its charge, and the Tigers went through a 15-minute stretch that they'd just as soon forget.
Kansas's 22nd straight win at Allen Fieldhouse ensured its 12th title in the 16-year history of the Big 12, one that will be especially sweet given the circumstances.
"Words can't even describe it, for real," Taylor said. "That's what we play our season for. After every huddle we yelled, `Big 12 champions,' because that's what we want to be."
At the expense of Missouri, that's what they are.