Smokin’ Joe Frazier had a way of working the body, working the body, working the body, until his opponent’s aggressive ways gave way to his survival instincts.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Missouri basketball team tends to have that Frazier-like impact on opponents. Never passive, the Tigers challenge ball-handlers, passers and shooters. It requires more energy to play against Mizzou than against most opponents. The body grows tired and the mind follows.
Obviously, to defeat a team that applies as much defensive pressure as Missouri means not just surviving it, but exploiting it by scoring. As the Kansas-Missouri game in Columbia wore on, the Jayhawks became less aggressive and engaged in more survivalist behavior. But don’t assume that was by conscious decision. At some point, the body becomes so fatigued it runs the mind.
Kansas looked tired at the end of the game in Mizzou Arena and not just a normal end-of-the-game tired. Sherron Collins, who holds the Kansas record with 35 consecutive free throw makes, stepped to the line with 1:48 left and missed both free throws. Fatigue saps the powers of concentration, the key ingredient to making free throws and avoiding unforced turnovers.
Now that the series shifts to Allen Fieldhouse, that means the crowd boosts KU’s energy and even might drain that of Missouri, but will the change in venue be all that’s necessary to stave off another late-game crash or will expanded use of the bench be required as well?
Giving Collins even more rest than the four minutes he was given in the 62-60 loss to Missouri could be a gamble worth taking, even though Kansas doesn’t have a second player who has proven he’s reliable taking care of the basketball. (Meanwhile, Collins went two home games in a row without a turnover until committing four in 38 minutes at Oklahoma).
Kansas coach Bill Self has proven he’s not afraid to reach way down his bench to tweak his rotation if he thinks a game’s circumstances merit it. For example, junior college transfer Tyrone Appleton played five minutes against Kansas State. The team needed an extra ball-handler and Appleton responded with solid play. He didn’t appear in the first Missouri game and said he doesn’t know if he’ll get in this one.
“If coach calls me, then I’ll be ready,” Appleton said. “It’s my type of game. I like up-tempo games. I like playing teams that love to press. That’s a game I’d really like to play.”
Even if he doesn’t, he has already made a contribution during a week of preparation. Not a gifted shooter, Appleton’s quick feet make him a tough guy to blow by.
“He plays a big role in practice because he’s so aggressive on the ball defensively,” freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “He’s a Missouri-type defender. He pressures me up. He pressures Sherron up.”
Said Appleton: “I really get after these guys because I really want to win. If that means me playing defense hard on the guys who play, then that’s what I’m going to do. I want them to be prepared for the worst situations.”
Including nine points in eight minutes from Travis Releford, KU’s bench outscored Mizzou’s, 24-9, in the first meeting. The bench figures to play a big part in this one, too.