LAWRENCE, Kan. — As Michael Dixon Jr. started walking slowly to the Missouri bench, he rolled the ball to the sideline and shook his head in frustration. His expression read: “This is embarrassing.”
Kansas’ Markieff Morris had just slammed home an alley-oop pass from Brady Morningstar to extend the Jayhawks’ already comfortable lead to 23 points only seven minutes into the second half. Missouri coach Mike Anderson called a timeout, if for no other reason than to give his players a temporary escape from the pounding they were suffering on one of the nation’s most storied and visitor-unfriendly courts.
From that point on, the complaints from the 142nd straight sellout crowd of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse were a little softer when a call didn’t go the Jayhawks’ way, knowing No. 2 Kansas’ 11th straight home win against Missouri was tightly sealed. The Tigers were out-of-character the whole night and painfully endured their first blowout loss of the season, an 84-65 defeat against their biggest rivals.
As the game finally wound down, Anderson stood next to Missouri’s bench with his arms crossed and his lower lip peeled over his upper lip, looking like he had at last accepted defeat.
For almost all of the hopeless second half, the Tigers sat stonefaced and motionless on the bench.
This is what you do when you play at Kansas.
Missouri never made but a microscopic dent in the Kansas lead, which hovered around 20 the entire second half. Even Jayhawks’ coach Bill Self admitted the second half was just a formality.
“In the second half, I thought it was just get through it,” Self said.
The Jayhawks kept the Tigers away from the basket all night, bullying Missouri’s undersized forwards and outrebounding the Tigers 56-28. Kansas’ domination on the boards made up for its surprising 23 turnovers, only nine of which were Missouri steals.
For much of the first half, the Tigers kept the game from getting too out of hand. They averted several Kansas possessions that, if successful, would have given the Jayhawks a lead of 15 or more.
“The first 10 minutes we kind of had the game going the way we wanted, and then they kind of gave us one punch and we kind of just folded and guys went separate ways rather than coming together and playing as a team,” said forward Justin Safford, who was the most productive Tigers player with 19 points and seven rebounds.
But Missouri took worse and worse shots as the half wore on, attempting difficult drives and heaving up contested shots with no teammates near the basket to rebound. The Tigers were continuously denied by 6-foot-11 center Cole Aldrich, who had seven blocks and 16 rebounds.
Missouri’s only glimmer of hope came in the game’s opening minutes via several favorable calls from the referees and two surprising 3-pointers from big man Keith Ramsey. Ramsey’s second and third 3-point baskets of the season actually gave the Tigers an early 8-3 lead.
But by the end of the half, Missouri had lost it.
Morningstar put an exclamation point on the Tigers’ collapse in the half’s closing seconds. With the clock about to expire, Morningstar launched a deep 3-point attempt with three Tigers surrounding him. The shot banked off the backboard, rattled around the rim and dropped in. Allen Fieldhouse erupted into one of its many deafening frenzies as Kansas extended its lead to 20 at halftime.
The overbearing and intimidating setting was too much for Missouri’s young team.
“In this type of atmosphere, I think the youth kind of showed,” Safford said.
When Kansas students began singing the famous “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” chants in the final two minutes, Missouri’s Kim English turned his head from the court to the throng of satisfied students.
He couldn’t help but hear the chant, just like visiting teams can’t help but get sucked into the nightmare that is Allen Fieldhouse.
“They’ve won 98 games in a row here,” Missouri assistant coach Matt Zimmerman said, exaggerating Kansas’ 54-game homecourt winning streak, “and they aren’t going to lose. I don’t see anybody beating them here this year. Can’t. Can’t see that.”