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Friday, February 24, 2012
Playmakers: Missouri needs 3-ball for upset

By Myron Medcalf

It’s the game of the weekend.

If you’re a true college basketball fan, you have to find a way to see Mizzou-Kansas on Saturday afternoon.

This could be the end of the rivalry.

The Big 12 title is at stake. A Missouri victory would put the Tigers and Jayhawks in a 13-3 tie for the first place. A Kansas victory would give the Jayhawks a slice of the Big 12 title for the eighth consecutive season.

It has a pair of serious national coach of the year contenders in Frank Haith and Bill Self. Allen Fieldhouse will go crazy.

The Tigers won the first game 74-71 on Feb. 4, but the Jayhawks have been the better team since that game.

So how can the Tigers beat the Jayhawks for the second time this season? It won’t be easy. The Jayhawks look like a Final Four team right now. And the Tigers are coming off a 78-68 loss to Kansas State.

Missouri won’t have a chance if it’s struggling from the 3-point line. In the first game, the Tigers were 10-for-22 (45 percent) from beyond the arc.

That was a crucial factor in Missouri’s victory. The Tigers hit shots -- really Marcus Denmon hit shots -- because they put in the work to free their best shooters, proven in this sequence from the first game (starting at the 1:22 mark).

Michael Dixon is dribbling the corner as the play unfolds. Kim English sets a hard screen that frees up Denmon on the right wing.

(Denmon scored 29 points and went 6-for-9 from the 3-point line in the game. The Jayhawks had to shadow him, and they’ll have to stick with him Saturday too.

He hits the big shot at a crucial juncture.

But this play showcases Missouri’s versatility and perimeter potency.

After English sets the screen, he’s open at the top of the key. Had Denmon been stuck on that play, he could have easily found English (46 percent from the 3-point line) as a second option.

English, Denmon and Dixon shoot 36 percent or better from beyond the arc.

It’s quite simple. If Missouri’s shooters find more success from the 3-point line, they will put the Tigers in a position to get their second win of the season against the Jayhawks.