Monday, February 7, 2011

Tigers fall in Lawrence

Despite the Missouri Tigers’ strong effort against the Kansas Jayhawks on Monday night in Lawrence, some unfortunate trends continued with the 103-86 Jayhawk win.

Perhaps most frustrating, Kansas continued its firm grip on the rivalry, particularly in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas now leads the overall series 170-94, including a 41-14 edge in the historic Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks have won four straight, nine of the last 10, and 18 of the last 22 in the series.

Missouri last won in Lawrence in 1999, Norm Stewart’s last trip to the venue in which he posted a respectable 11-21 mark. (Mizzou is 3-20 in Allen Fieldhouse with coaches other than Stewart at the helm.) Missouri (18-6, 4-5 in Big 12 play) is now 2-22 all-time against top-10 Kansas teams in Lawrence, and 2-15 against top-five Jayhawks teams in Lawrence.

So, after wading through those rather uncomfortable numbers, this loss was more the following of unfortunate trends than something to be terribly upset about. After all, Kansas is now 115-8 in Big 12 home games.

Missouri hung tough, leading by five midway through the first half. Missouri trailed by only four at the half, 46-42, and kept close for a few minutes in the second half before Kansas finally buried the Tigers with a preposterously hot shooting run. For the game, Missouri shot 51.7 percent, an outstanding percentage, but Kansas shot an astounding 60.7 percent for the game. As the Tigers clawed to stay in the game, Kansas poured in backbreaking three-pointers. The Jayhawks didn’t run the Tigers out of the gym; only four of their 103 points came via fast breaks.

If you had told me Missouri would shoot 51.7 percent and score 86 in the game, I would have loved the Tigers’ chances. But with Kansas scoring like it was the 1970s, when triple digit games were fairly common in college basketball, it wasn’t enough.

It was, however, the Tigers’ best effort in Allen Fieldhouse since coach Mike Anderson’s first year, when his seemingly overmatched squad fell just three points short.

However, another trend that continued with Monday’s loss was the Tigers’ inability to win on the road. Through nine conference games, Missouri is 4-0 at home and 0-5 on the road, including last week’s bad loss at Oklahoma State. It’s tough to win on the road and something beyond tough to win in Allen Fieldhouse, but each road loss drops Missouri’s projected seed for the NCAA Tournament, down to a 5 or 6 in most projections on Monday. Seeding and matchups are crucial to making a deep run in the tournament.

Fortunately, Missouri now has two home games, starting with Oklahoma at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday (Big 12 Network, check local listings). After another home game with Texas Tech, the Tigers travel to Iowa State, then another home game, this one with Baylor. With three of four at home, and the road game at the Big 12’s last-place team, there’s a decent chance Missouri could win all four of these games and greatly improve its NCAA Tournament standing.

After that, however, comes a tough closing stretch of games at Kansas State, at Nebraska and then back home against Kansas to close out the season. The guess here is that Missouri will finish 7-1 in Big 12 home games and 2-6 on the road for a 9-7 league record. But as wild as the Big 12 has been, about anything seems possible right now.

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