Tigers celebrate end of KU's reign

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Hundreds stormed the court, a spontaneous eruption celebrating Missouri's coming-out party.

Just a few hours later, and it would be three years to the day since Quin Snyder's resignation and the program's all-time low mark. Suddenly all the cobwebs were gone, swept away by the Tigers' improbable come-from-behind 62-60 victory over bitter border rival Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas vs. Missouri is always a sellout. This time the school got so much more. The Tigers (21-5, 8-2 Big 12) shook off an atrocious first half in time to end a five-game losing streak in the series, and Missouri coach Mike Anderson finally beat the Jayhawks after an 0-5 career start. Barring total collapse, the school's five-year NCAA tournament drought also is about to end.

When the arena was half-filled earlier this season, Anderson knew the fan base was just waiting for a sign.

"It's one of the reasons I came here," he said. "It's a tough place to play and the fans have passion. We've got to give them a reason to come and a reason to stay when they come, and I think they went home happy tonight."

The last 16 games at home, that's been the case. The Kansas nailbiter sticks out as the only tough test on that list, the other 15 decided by an average of 28.5 points.

Kansas (19-5, 8-1) led 30-16 at halftime and was up by 11 at 54-43 with 8:19 to play, but had only one more basket the rest of the way. The Jayhawks' 48-28 rebounding advantage was negated by a season-high 27 turnovers, and Missouri was able to prevail despite season-worst 35.6 percent shooting.

"We did a great job on the glass," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But we did a pitiful, pitiful job handling any type of pressure."

Cole Aldrich had 15 rebounds and five blocked shots for Kansas, but Self said the 6-foot-11 center didn't get enough scoring chances while battling a collapsing zone. Aldrich was 3 of 8 and had eight points.

Missouri cracked the top 25 for the first time in almost five seasons around Christmas time, then quickly exited after a blowout loss to Illinois in St. Louis. This time, the Tigers are looking forward to a much longer stay in the poll with a chance to make it 17 in a row at home Saturday against Nebraska.

"Experience, leadership, mature freshmen," said DeMarre Carroll, who led Missouri with 22 points and seven rebounds. "Then you've got to give credit to our coach. He harps on us every day about defense.

"As a team, I think we came together in the second half."

As for Kansas, Self doesn't expect the setback to linger with his young players.

"Hopefully if we're in this position again, we'll close it out," the coach said. "If we can't handle losing a game, we're obviously not a very tough team or tough-minded at all."

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