COLUMBIA — It became apparent early on Saturday that senior guard Marcus Denmon was out of his shooting slump.
The leading scorer on the Missouri men's basketball team shot less than 30 percent in the Tigers' past three games before Saturday's 74-71 win against No. 8 Kansas at Mizzou Arena.
But against the Jayhawks, Denmon shot 62.5 percent, scoring 29 points and cementing his name among the prominent players to make their mark in the long Missouri-Kansas rivalry.
As the shot clock wound down on Missouri's second possession of the game, Denmon dribbled back to the Tiger logo at midcourt, then dribbled up to set his feet and fire off a long 3-pointer. The shot went in, setting the Missouri crowd into a frenzy for the first of many times during a game Missouri coach Frank Haith called, "a classic."
Denmon scored 14 of Missouri's first 22 points, but he saved his best performance for last.
After an emphatic dunk by Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor gave the Jayhawks a 71-63 lead with three and a half minutes to play, Denmon scored nine straight points — two 3-pointers, a layup and a free throw — to put Missouri back on top.
"Marcus worked his tail off all week," Haith said.
While Kansas coach Bill Self was disappointed with his team's play in the final three minutes, he's not sure anybody could have stopped Denmon.
"He made two threes with his body turned sideways," Self said. "I mean, those are big time shots. How about the three to start the game? We played perfect defense, and he hit a 30-footer with a hand in his face. He made some plays out there."
Denmon also led the team with nine rebounds. He has been the Tigers' best scorer and one of their best rebounders all season. He has already made a name for himself nationally as a member of the USA Basketball Men's World University Games team last summer.
After pulling down a rebound as the final buzzer sounded, Denmon and teammate Kim English motioned for Missouri fans to stay off the court while they celebrated.
"We don't go into games expecting to lose," English said. "We prepare to win. I know how much this rivalry means to our fans, and we want to beat them really badly because we know how much it means to them. But this game to us was just a game we needed to win to continue our quest to win the Big 12. So I didn't want a big rah-rah celebration."
At 8-2 in the conference, Missouri (21-2 overall) is now tied with Kansas (17-5) and No. 6 Baylor (21-2) for first place in the Big 12. The Tigers continue their season with a road game against Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Monday.
"My teammates are a bunch of winners," Denmon said. "When you want to win, you buy into the coaching staff and system and whatever you gotta to do to get wins."