Aaron Miles has developed a knack for wrecking Missouri’s hopes late in games at Hearnes Center.
For the second consecutive year, Miles, a junior from Portland, Ore., hit a late-game 3-pointer late in the shot clock to devastate the Tigers. The shot helped the Jayhawks to an 84-82 win Sunday in a Big 12 Conference game that drew a crowd of 13,611 for the final regular season game at Hearnes Center.
“Last year, I just tried to throw it up and get it on the rim,” Miles said. “This year it was great penetration by Keith (Langford). They left me open, and I hit the shot.”
Last season, Miles made a desperation 3-pointer with 1:20 left as the shot clock expired and tied the game at 74. The Jayhawks won 79-74.
Although the Tigers (15-12, 9-7 Big 12) had retaken control with a 13-2 run, Miles again had the ball in his hands with 21 seconds left.
After Langford drove the lane and drew an extra defender, he tossed a pass to Miles on the left wing where he made his third 3-pointer of the game. It gave the Jayhawks an 82-80 lead.
“There was no way I was going to let it go,” Miles said. “In those situations, clutch situations, I want Keith Langford to have the ball, Wayne (Simien) to have the ball or myself taking the shot. We want all the pressure so if something goes wrong you can blame it on ourselves. We can handle it.”
After Miles’ shot, junior guard Jason Conley drove the length of the court and drew a foul with 15.4 seconds left. He made the free throws to tie at 82.
On the next possession, Kansas’ final shot, Miles couldn’t get his hands on the ball. It went to David Padgett, a freshman center, on the left block. It wouldn’t matter for the Jayhawks (20-7, 12-4), who, as they had all day, made it count.
Padgett who played despite spraining his right ankle against Oklahoma on Feb. 29, made a line-drive, turnaround jumper with two seconds left for the winning shot.
“He deserved to hit that shot,” Simien said. “We’re real happy for him.”
Simien, a junior forward, scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the second half. He also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Kansas coach Bill Self said the final two possessions saved the Jayhawks from collapsing after a poor stretch.
“Well, we didn’t have any offense the last four minutes at all,” Self said. “We played not to lose, and they made some great plays. The last two possessions, we just said, ‘Get the ball in Keith’s hands and go make a play.’
“He made a great to play to Aaron, and Aaron made a clutch shot. He made a great play because David’s man went to go guard him and he passed it. The timing was perfect. We couldn’t have drawn it up any better. That was a great shot.”
The Jayhawks held a 77-67 lead with 4:55 left.
Self, who is 5-0 against Missouri, also said that from his vantage point, it appeared Padgett’s shot was going long.
MU senior Travon Bryant said the closing possessions featured several extreme emotions.
“You go from cloud nine to, I don’t know, the opposite of that, being in the dirt,” Bryant said. “It’s definitely a hard way to go out.”
Bryant had a rough day from the field, making 2-of-11 shots.
Miles, who leads the Big 12 in assists per game, played well in more than the final minutes. For the second straight time against the Tigers, Miles had little opposition whenever he used his speed and quickness to get in the lane. He had eight assists, which is three fewer than the Tigers’ team total.
“You can’t put it into words, but it’s a tough loss for us because we battled,” MU sophomore Jimmy McKinney said. “We left everything on the floor. We had some opportunities to win the ball game, but they hit some tough shots down the stretch.”
The Jayhawks’ late-game heroics spoiled a career day from Tigers senior Arthur Johnson. Johnson made 13-of-17 field goals for 37 points against a smaller Kansas front line.
When the Jayhawks had their 77-67 lead, their biggest of the game, Johnson single-handedly brought the Tigers back.
Johnson, playing in his final home game as a Tiger, scored the next nine points in 1:51. Johnson also scored the Tigers’ first nine points of the second half.
“You can’t put into words how well he played (Sunday),” Bryant said. “He was an animal out there. You saw it in his eyes from the first couple possessions. He was just taking over, and we knew it was going to be that way all day.”
Miles led the Jayhawks late, but Langford kept the Jayhawks in the game in the first half. Johnson scored with ease for the Tigers, and Langford responded with excellent 3-point shooting.
Although better known as a slashing guard, Langford started the game with three 3-pointers. Langford, who scored 11 of the Jayhawks first 17 points, gave the Jayhawks their first lead, 15-14, with a 3-pointer with 14:46 left. Langford finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.
With the loss, the Tigers must look to the Big 12 Tournament to save their dwindling NCAA Tournament hopes.
“I’ve learned that things happen, and it’s over,” Conley said. “We can’t go back and say, ‘Let’s do it over again. Let’s go back to that last shot.’ We can’t. All we can do now is focus on the tournament and what’s ahead.”
The Tigers, seeded sixth, will face Texas A&M at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and the winner of that game will face third-seeded Kansas in the quarterfinals Friday.