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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Notebook: 8th-ranked Jayhawks finally able to turn attention to upcoming clash with Mizzou

The Kansas bench erupts after a made three-pointer by reserve Michael Jankovich (20) with seconds remaining in the game on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

The Kansas bench erupts after a made three-pointer by reserve Michael Jankovich (20) with seconds remaining in the game on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

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Kansas City, Mo. — Moments after scoring 20 points in a blowout win over UTEP at T-Mobile Center on Tuesday night, Kansas junior Christian Braun painted a crystal-clear picture of how quickly the Jayhawks had moved on from UTEP to Saturday’s looming showdown with Missouri.

“I think the first thing everybody said when we got in the tunnel was, ‘Who we got next’,” Braun said Tuesday. “I was looking forward to it before, to be real honest with you, but I'm excited and I know all the guys are excited.”

With Tuesday’s relatively easy 78-52 win over UTEP now out of the way, the Jayhawks — along with their fans, their enemies and anyone else who might want to pay attention — now can fully turn their focus to the renewal of their series with bitter border rival Missouri.

For the first time in 3,574 days, the longtime rival Tigers (5-4) and Jayhawks (7-1) will face off in a game that actually counts again at 2:15 p.m. Saturday from Allen Fieldhouse.

Outside of an exhibition game to benefit hurricane relief in 2017, the Jayhawks and Tigers, once intimate enemies, have been virtual strangers for the past decade.

Their final fight is the thing of legends, of course, with Kansas winning a thriller in Lawrence on Feb. 25, 2012. The Jayhawks came back from 19 down in the second half to win that one in overtime, sending the Fieldhouse fans into a frenzy and the Tigers to the SEC on the wrong end of what many believed would be the last matchup ever between the two.

“It was probably the most emotional home game that I’ve ever been a part of,” Self said of the 2012 matchup on Tuesday. “There was pressure on us to win that game and we didn’t handle it very well. But then when the lid came off we played pretty well down the stretch. But that was college basketball at its best.”

Prior to the renewal of the series, KU’s coach, now in his 19th season with the Jayhawks ran up against the possibility of being at Kansas as long without playing the Tigers as he was there while playing them. And while there are many reasons it took this long for the series to resume, Self said he never lost sight of what the rivalry meant.

“This is the best game on our schedule,” Self said. “We haven’t played them in nine years, and back when we did play them it was the best game on our schedule.”

Only a handful of current Kansas players have the capacity to understand exactly what the rivalry was all about in its heyday.

Braun, who has family members who played at Mizzou, was exposed to it through that. Mitch Lightfoot, a die-hard, lifelong Jayhawk remembers the KU-MU clashes from his youth. And Ochai Agbaji, who grew up on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro area after moving from Milwaukee heard enough about it to gain a clear understanding.

“I just know they both hate each other,” he said. “It’s just a big week. … I know the Border War; it should be a really fun game.”

In case this group needs a crash course in how to handle a matchup with their rivals to the east, a couple of former Jayhawks were on hand Tuesday night to share their experiences.

“We had Sherron (Collins) and Jamari Traylor in the locker room, and they were talking about how much it means to them,” Agbaji said after Tuesday’s victory. “I know it means a lot to the alumni, the whole program, both universities, so it’s a big game.”

Braun said just knowing that it’s finally here was enough to get him excited. And he just missed it being a showdown between him and his older brother, Parker, who started his career at Missouri and transferred to Santa Clara during the offseason. But even if Saturday’s game had come with the added element of a sibling rivalry, Braun said that would not have added to its importance.

“It’s just Missouri,” he said. “That’s what I’m excited for. The rivalry’s a lot bigger than me and my family. We’ve watched this game growing up and have seen how intense the rivalry really is, so, yeah, it’s big for my family, but I’m just excited to play with Kansas across my chest.”

He’s not the only one. More than 100 student camping groups were already set up at Allen Fieldhouse as early as Monday, lining up for their chance to get choice seats. Don’t be surprised if they all squeeze together a little tighter and stand a little taller while yelling a little louder when Saturday arrives.

“I would assume it’s going to be pretty good,” Self said of what he expects from the atmosphere. “There won’t be a lot of empty seats.”

Asked if it was hard to focus on Tuesday’s task while knowing that the Mizzou game was next on the schedule, Lightfoot provided an honest answer.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” he said. “I think everybody here’s excited for it. The rivalry’s back, and I think we’re all ready to play.”

McCormack hobbled

Self said after Tuesday's victory that senior forward David McCormack "tweaked his ankle" midway through the win over UTEP, which caused Self to hold him out for most of the second half.

McCormack played a total of 17 minutes on Tuesday — a little more than 12 in the first half and just over 4 in the second. KU's double-digit lead throughout much of the game made the decision to sit him much easier.

Asked if the injury was anything to worry about, Self said simply, "I don't think so. He played after he did it, so I don't think so. But I didn't see any reason (to put him back out there)."

McCormack got off to a solid start on Tuesday and finished with eight points and three rebounds on 3-of-6 shooting while drawing three fouls and blocking three shots.

Braun Big 12 POW

Braun’s career-night last Friday in Elmont, N.Y., not only led the eighth-ranked Jayhawks to victory but also earned him the Big 12’s Player of the Week honor.

The conference announced Braun as this week’s pick on Monday, making him the second Jayhawk to win the award this season. Braun teammate and Big 12 leading scorer Ochai Agbaji also won the award on Nov. 15.

The honor is the second of Braun’s career. He also was named the conference’s top player in late December a year ago.

Braun scored a career-high 31 points in the Jayhawks 95-75 road win at St. John’s on Friday, Dec. 3, including 22 points in the second half alone. He shot 10 of 16 from the floor, 2-of-4 from 3-point range and 9-of-10 at the free throw line. He also tied a season-high with eight rebounds and added four assists and a team-high three steals.

“He has improved in all areas,” Self of his second leading scorer and top rebounder, who also ranks second on the team in assists and first in steals.

Added Lightfoot: “He’s (being) aggressive while being a team player at the same time. When they said he had 31 after the game, it was like, ‘Damn. He had 31?’ His ability to score within the offense is impressive.”

Honoring Dole

Prior to tipoff on Tuesday, the T-Mobile Center crowd honored the late Bob Dole with a moment of silence. The longtime United States Senator from Russell, who was a proud ambassador of all things Sunflower State, passed away earlier this week at age 98.

This and that…

KU and UTEP are now tied 3-3 in the all-time series against one another, with the Jayhawks having won the last three meetings… KU is now 7-1 or better for the eighth consecutive season and the 14th time in Self’s 19 seasons at Kansas… KU is now 44-10 all-time in T-Mobile Center, formerly known as Sprint Center. The Jayhawks are also now 230-84 all-time in games played in Kansas City.

Comments

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Isn’t there space in the notebook to mention that the Mike and Chris were 2-2 for 5 pts? As DV would say, “Come on. Give the walkons some love.”

Matt Tait 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Helped secure the cover, if you're so inclined to care about such things.

Rodney Crain 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Finally???

The Power House 5-4 Tigers have been looming since it was scheduled. When they lost to The Roos and Liberty I realized just how tough this game was going to be. It's going to be hard not to overlook this weak, overmatched Mizzo team.

This is only for some of the fans who are desperately trying to rekindle the magic from something that has long ago passed. That OT game in Allen will never be surpassed.

If we win who cares, if we lose it is a bad loss.

It does not mean anything anymore.

Matt Tait 1 month, 2 weeks ago

That's certainly one way to look at it. And it might be that way for a lot of people. But these guys — the players and coaches — are absolutely jacked for this game. They've been looking forward to it for months. It's been circled on the calendar. And they know what it means to a large chunk of the fan base, even if it's not what it once was.

You're right. It won't be anything like the old days. But it can (and probably will) still be a heck of a lot of fun and all signs point to it being a good day for the home team. Guessing the spread will be somewhere in the high teens, perhaps higher.

Phil Leister 1 month, 2 weeks ago

If the players and coaches are jacked about it, and there are 100+ groups already camping for the game, then your statement that "It does not mean anything anymore" is super strange and pretty much wrong.

Rodney Crain 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Matt this reminds me of fans wanting us to play Wichita State when their wunderkind since fired coach had a couple nice recruiting class's. Who cares? Very soon after those players left so did the chorus to play WSU. Now it would be like an Empoira State game, exhibition only.

I doubt with all seriousness any of these players felt anything like the wrath of playing at MU with the Antliers and storming Norman. Not sure how many know about the raid on Lawrence, or even seen the intro video for KU before that last MU game at Allen. I have sat in that MU arena with KU blue on. It was once an All IN no prisoners game. Its not any more. It is how much will we win by. God forbid we lose to a terrible team like this. If we do we can't forget we asked for it.

This is for some fans who want to beat MU again, when as you noted this game might be over by the 2nd TV timeout.

Len Shaffer 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I know there's a lot of hype about this so-called "rivalry" game, but to paraphrase a great quote from years ago (before the Red Sox had broken their long streak of not having won the World Series), "It's not a rivalry if one side always wins. A hammer and a nail is not a rivalry."

I know that in the past there were many classic games against Mizzou (including, as mentioned above, the sensational last game at Allen), but this is not your older brother's Tiggers. They have pretty much sucked for quite a while now, and I fully expect the 'Hawks to keep them down where they belong.

Matt Gauntt 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Mizzery knuckledraggers are already talking smack on social media. They may be a weak team, but a) I hope our guys don't go into this complacent. Mizzery has lived with the fact that we owned them for years, and they will view a win against us as the equivalent of winning a NCAA Championship, and b) I don't want to just win this, I want us to win by 50 points. We need to see this as making a statement.

Where is Don Fambrough when you need him!!!!!???

Mike Morris 1 month, 2 weeks ago

One of my favorite jokes is:

Why do golf courses in Columbia only have 14 holes? Because Missouri doesn't play the Final Four.

RCJH!!!

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

There are some people that view a rivalry as an athletic competition and that it must be competitive for it to be good and meaningful. Those are people like the former chancellor who tried changing the name because calling it a Border War was disrespectful to military personnel who had fought in real wars. Unfortunately, that chancellor and others apparently failed the portion of history class that taught about the civil war, John Brown, and bleeding Kansas. This rivalry is more than an athletic competition and will be significant as long as there are relatives of those that fought for freedom.

Do the students still have the banner of JB holding the NC trophy? It’s a classic alongside “Beware of the Phog”.

Rodney Crain 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Um Ok. Gosh where do I start?

Your are way out there on this post. I was waiting for someone to bring up John Brown, blood, and disrespect. First off thank you I got bingo off your post. More importantly John Brown would fit right in with today's political climate, and that is not a good thing. He did not just yell and march around. He killed people. Secondly if you actually knew his entire history, especially at Harper's Ferry, you might want to slow your roll on the High and Mighty junk. He was misguided and violent.

As Ghandi proved real social change happens peacefully. It is not without blood and sacrifice. But it must be peaceful.

Finally it is just a basketball game, against a rival we used to have, and it appears it is not going to be competitive. If we beat them it will not add to whatever romanticized ideal you are trying to attach to it. Nothing will change but the records of the two teams. Just in case you missed it, The civil war did not become about freedom till the 13th amendant passed. Freedom for only those in slave states, which Kansas was not. It took till the Civil rights act passed under Johnson in the late 1960's to enforce what our relatives fought for.

Our Ancestors are likely disappointed in how little we have done since then.

Stick to sentence structure critique Dirk.

Bryce Landon 1 month, 2 weeks ago

<--- Been a long time since I've been able to break out this John Brown avatar, but here it is in all it's glory.

MUCK FIZZOU!

Greg Bowles 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This "Border War" has been going on since the civil war, when Quantrill's Raiders burned down Lawrence. Not in a sports since, but in an ugly hate your neighbor since. I will be wearing my "Beating Missouri since 1854" shirt.

Pius Waldman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The past is history. Let's hope nothing bad happens. Show respect for visitors. This I sayeth.

Micky Baker 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I do not believe that it is a game that should be taken lightly. They're going to be jacked, and we're going to be jacked. Run them out of the field house. If we get ahead by 10, push it to 20, then to 30, then to 40. Do not give them any hope. Do not overlook this game. It will be an embarrassing loss.

Thomas Harrison 1 month, 2 weeks ago

On Saturday, remember Quantrill's raiders burning of Lawrence on August 21, 1863. That began the hate that has lasted for years! RUN THEM OUT OF ALLEN FIELDHOUSE!!!! NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN SCHEDULED ANYWAY!!!!

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