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Saturday, February 25, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Kansas 87, Mizzou 86 (OT)

By Jason King



LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Here are some quick thoughts from Kansas' classic 87-86 overtime victory over Missouri on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Overview: Tyshawn Taylor made a pair of free throws with eight seconds remaining in overtime to lift No. 5 Kansas over archival and third-ranked Missouri. Mizzou had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Michael Dixon took too much time and Marcus Denmon couldn't get off a shot as time expired. The game was one of the greatest in the history of the Jayhawks' historic venue, as KU came back from a 19-point second-half deficit to defeat its nemesis in what might have been the final regular-season meeting ever between the two teams. Missouri is moving to the SEC next season and Kansas has indicated it has no interest in continuing the series.

National-player-of-the-year candidate Thomas Robinson had 28 points, while Taylor added 24 for Kansas, which clinched at least a share of the Big 12 title for the eighth consecutive season. The Jayhawks, who have a two-game lead over the second-place Tigers, can claim the championship outright with a victory over Oklahoma State on Monday in Stillwater.

Denmon scored 28 points for MU and Ricardo Ratliffe added 22. Denmon's baseline jumper with 12 seconds left in overtime gave the Tigers an 86-85 lead before Taylor raced down the court and was fouled by Dixon, which led to the game-deciding free throws.

A three-point play by Robinson with 16 seconds left in regulation forced a 75-75 tie and sent the game into overtime.

"It wouldn't have been a disgrace to lose to a good team," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But it's Missouri. You've got to win that game."

Star the game: Robinson took a huge step toward winning national POY honors with his 28-point, 12-rebound performance. Along with his clutch baskets down the stretch, Robinson also blocked a shot by Missouri's Phil Pressey as time expired in regulation.

By the numbers: Saturday's effort tied the largest comeback victory the Jayhawks have ever had at home — KU also rallied from 19 down in December 1995 to defeat UCLA. It was just three points shy of the school's biggest rally ever (22 versus Texas in 2007). ... Kansas improved to 15-1 at home against Mizzou since the formation of the Big 12. ... This was just the second time in the past 34 meetings of this storied rivalry that the game went into overtime. ... This was the fourth time these two schools have met while each was in the top 10. It was the first of those matchups that KU has won. ... Mizzou came awfully close, but no team since 2001 Iowa State has beaten Kansas twice in the regular season.

What this means for Missouri: Considering the atmosphere and all that was at stake, Missouri played as well at Allen Fieldhouse as any opponent in recent memory. The Tigers' mental toughness was unbelievable against a team that has won 90 of its past 91 home games. Mizzou wasn't at all affected by KU's deafening crowd. The Tigers hit big shot after big shot to maintain the lead until the final seconds of regulation. Their performance is a credit to the senior leadership of veterans Dixon, Denmon, Ratliffe and Kim English -- and first-year coach Frank Haith. This is a Final Four-caliber team.

What this means for Kansas: KU has accomplished one of the most underrated feats in college sports by winning an eighth consecutive Big 12 title -- especially considering this was supposed to be Self's worst Kansas team. The Jayhawks lost four starters from last year's Elite Eight squad. In the waning minutes Saturday, the Jayhawks had a walk-on (Conner Teahan) on the court, along with a Loyola Marymount transfer (Kevin Young) who averaged about 8 points a game at his previous school. Kansas also won without much of a contribution from center Jeff Withey, who turned his ankle in the opening half and hardly played after intermission. More important to Kansas fans is that the Jayhawks will have bragging rights again -- and perhaps forever -- on their most hated rival. Kansas leads the all-time series 172-95.

What's next: Kansas plays at Oklahoma State on Big Monday, while Missouri hosts Iowa State on Wednesday.