LAWRENCE, Kan. — Guard Keon Lawrence played one of the best games of his college career on Monday night.
Unfortunately for Missouri, he did it in a 19-point loss to Kansas.
“I knew I was going to have come and play and bring my ‘A’ game with this team (Kansas),” the sophomore guard said. “Because the first time (against Kansas) I wasn’t aggressive enough. So I knew I was going to have to try to keep my team in it.”
Lawrence set a new career-high in points with 25 and added six assists, which tied his career best. He only comitted one turnover. Heading into the game on Monday, Lawrence had 53 assists compared to 46 turnovers.
Due to the suspensions of five players, Lawrence’s playing time was increased in the two games before Monday’s against the Jayhawks. He played 35 minutes against Nebraska and 29 against Kansas State. For Monday’s game, guard Jason Horton and forward Darryl Butterfield were back playing for the Tigers.
Those two returning to the lineup left only guard Stefhon Hannah still out. He is still at his home in Chicago recovering from a broken jaw he sustained in a fight outside of the Athena Night Club during the early morning on Jan. 27. Even with those players returning from suspension, Lawrence still played 36 of the 40 minutes against Kansas.
“I felt fine. I knew I was going to have to play a lot of minutes tonight too,” Lawrence said. “I felt my legs were all right. I felt pretty good.”
Lawrence said that playing a lot of minutes is something he has prepared himself to do.
“I always try, before the season starts, to get myself in the best shape just for situations like this where I have to play over 30 minutes,” Lawrence said. “I know I was more in shape. I got tired at times, got out and got a breather, but I was ready to come back. I know I’ll have to play a lot of minutes from now on to put us in a position to win.”
MU coach Mike Anderson said part of Lawrence’s success on Monday night was that the Tigers were able to speed up the tempo of the game in the second half. Anderson said that in the first half, Kansas was able to get back and set up in its defense. When that happens it impacts Lawrence’s play because Lawrence plays better in the open court.
“I thought we got the game and got the ball flowing with some screening,” Anderson said. “He (Lawrence) made some plays. You’ve got to be able to make some plays.”
A problem for Lawrence this season has been that he has followed good performances with bad ones. He scored 18 points when the Tigers beat Texas on Jan. 12. In the next game against Iowa State, a Missouri loss, Lawrence only scored two points on 1-10 shooting.
A few games later, Lawrence scored 24 points against Texas Tech and followed it up with just three points against Colorado.
“Some games I go in and be aggressive and do a good job. And some games I go in trying to get everybody else involved, and not really looking for myself,” Lawrence said. “I really just got to carry this over and see how I was aggressive (on Monday) and I’ve got to with it if we are going to have a chance. I’ve got to help us score a lot.”
SUSPENSIONS: Jason Horton and Darryl Butterfield both played in Monday night’s game. After the game MU coach Mike Anderson was asked if the players returning to the lineup meant that everything was settled with that situation.
He responded by saying: “Well, they’ve been reinstated so they’re back in the lineup. So we’re just trying to continue to get better as a team.”
Anderson said that he made the decision to reinstate the players right before the game against Kansas.
Guard Stefhon Hannah is still in Chicago recovering from his broken jaw. Anderson addressed Hannah’s situation on Monday as well.
“Right now he’s suspended indefinitely,” Anderson said of Hannah. “I don’t think he’s even worrying about playing right now. He’s worried about, hopefully, getting back healthy.”