For every Missouri player, the biggest game of the season is the home game against Kansas.
Even the Tigers’ four freshmen know how important it is, and they’ve never played against the Jayhawks in Columbia.
They also know that because the team is so young, much of the responsibility for a win or a loss Sunday will be theirs. More than that, though, they know what a win or a loss means to the Tigers.
With an 67-49 loss to Iowa State, the Tigers fell to 14-15 (6-9 in the Big 12 Conference). In order to be eligible for the NIT tournament, Missouri needs to have a winning record. A loss will destroy almost all hope they have of making a postseason appearance in their first season with Missouri. The only other chance they have is to win the Big 12 Tournament.
Marshall Brown, a freshman forward, said he is looking at the Kansas game as an opportunity to save the season.
“We still got Kansas and the Big 12 Tournament,” Brown said. “So, we’ll see what we can do. We’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunities that are ahead of us.”
The Jayhawks (22-4, 12-3 Big 12) are a tough team to beat this year. However, the Tigers played them close at Lawrence, Kan. and even had a lead at half. Kansas pulled away in the second period after switching to a zone defense.
Freshman Kalen Grimes said he chooses too view the game as he has every other one, rather than focus on the rivalry. He said he plans on being there when his team needs him.
“It’s just another game,” Grimes said. “It’s just another game that we need. Another game where we’re going to play our hardest. It’s the same thing for me. It’s another game that I need. Another game my team needs.”
Point guard Jason Horton, the only freshman starter on the team, said he looks at the Kansas game as a way to cap the season on a high note after a couple of disappointing losses.
“It’s tough,” Horton said. “But now we’ve just got to move on to Kansas and try and get a win there.”
Senior captain Jason Conley said he has been too focused on current games to properly prepare his freshman teammates. However, he plans to change that soon.
“I haven’t even gotten there, yet,” Conley said after the Iowa State game. “We were focused on this game. I haven’t even talked to them yet but I will.”
Missouri coach Quin Snyder said he is confident his team can turn things around against Kansas. He said a strength of his players’ relative youngness is the ability to bounce back from hardships.