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Season getting tougher

Struggling Tigers must face
No. 5 Jayhawks on rivals' court
Monday, January 15, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:48 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

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Missouri guard Stefon Hannah syas he doesn’t know what to expect from his teammates in tonight’s game. “We haven’t really been playing the way we’re supposed to play,” he said. (ADAM WISNESKI/Missourian)

Missouri guard Stefhon Hannah said he doesn’t know what to expect when the he and the Tigers take the court at Allen Fieldhouse to face Kansas tonight.

“I’ve never done it,” Hannah said. “People tell me. You never know until you experience it.”

While playing in front of the likely sell-out crowd of 16,300 in Lawrence, Kan., will be a new for Hannah, Missouri’s point guard said he also doesn’t know what to expect out of his own team.

“We haven’t really been playing the way we’re supposed to play,” Hannah said. “...We need to come out and play our game. Get after them. Attack them. Play how we play.”

By that, Hannah means playing well for the full 40 minutes of each game. In its past conference games at Texas and against Kansas State, Missouri (11-5, 0-3 Big 12 Conference) has spent a lot of time playing from behind after allowing opponents to build big first-half leads. In order to beat Kansas, Hannah said, Missouri will have to play well from the opening tip.

“We see we’re down, then we try to get back in the game,” Hannah said. “We can’t keep playing from behind. That’s what’s messing us up.”

The timing of tonight’s game for Missouri can be viewed in a couple ways.

On one hand, winning at No. 5 Kansas (15-2, 2-0 Big 12) won’t be easy for the Tigers, who remain winless in the conference. A loss tonight would make Missouri 0-4 in the Big 12. And Kansas has already proved that it might be the best team in the conference. Add to that, Missouri has lost seven straight games at Kansas.

On the other hand, it could be exactly what the Tigers need. Few expect Missouri to come out of Kansas with a win.

“This is the most critical part in the season when you’re 0-3,” Hannah said. “Nobody thinks you can do it. We just got to prove everybody wrong.”

The fact that Hannah said nobody thinks Missouri will win could alleviate some of the pressure that Hannah said is mounting for the Tigers to get its first conference win. Missouri could approach the game with a nothing-to-lose attitude. And if Missouri is pull off the upset, that could be huge for a team lacking confidence after three straight losses.

“I think it’s a good time to go to Lawrence, if you can go there and get a win,” Missouri forward Marshall Brown said. “I mean every time you go in there, you expect a war, regardless of what our conference record might be. It’s going to be a fight regardless.”

But if Missouri wants to give itself a chance to win at Kansas, the players will have to get the losses in the past three games out of their system. That, however, may not be easy for a young Tigers team that coach Mike Anderson said could be fragile.

“We have to make sure that our guys know that game’s (Kansas State) over with,” Anderson said. “We get a chance now to go play against one of the bitter rivalries when you talk about border wars. No one’s going to feel sorry for us so we better get ready to play.”

Kansas’ ability to rebound could be a foreseeable problem for a Missouri team that was outrebounded 41-17 Saturday against Kansas State. That Jayhawks are first in the Big 12 in rebounding and have averaged nearly a plus-eight rebounding average this season. Missouri ranks last in the conference with an average of only 26 rebounds per game.


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