The Border War was renewed on Saturday in Lawrence for the first time in nearly 10 years between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Missouri Tigers. It was the first time the two teams met since Mizzou left for the SEC. The last time they met, it was a classic as Kansas came back for an 87-86 win at home on February 25th, 2012.
It was great to see these old rivals playing each other on the court and the crowd at Phog Allen Fieldhouse could not have been more jazzed to have this game back.
So with that being said, here are three thoughts on Kansas’ 102-65 over Missouri.
1. The Red-Hot Start
The KU fans were as juiced as I’ve seen them for a December game right before tip off. It was like a Final Four match up was being played right inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse. And clearly, the Jayhawks fed off that energy to start the game and Mizzou was a bit shell-shocked by it.
Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji hit back-to-back three-pointers in the first two minutes to open the scoring. And the hot streak continued from there with Dajuan Harris Jr. nailing his own back-to-back threes as KU jumped out to a 21-9 lead by the 12:53 mark in the first half.
By halftime, Kansas had extended their lead to 49-27. The Jayhawks shot 57% from the field and were 54% from three-point range. Add that to being 11/13 from the charity stripe and you have a game that certainly felt like it was over at the halfway mark.
2. DaJuan Harris Jr.’s’ Coming Out Party
Harris had the back-to-back three’s at a pivotal point in the first half as we noted above, but he continued to play solid, and he finished the game tying a career-high with 13 points in this one. He had 10 of those in the first half. He entered this game averaging just 2.5 points per game. He added two rebounds, two assists and one steal on the afternoon. Oh, and it also happened to be his birthday.
The sophomore was a Top 100 player coming out of high school in the Class of 2019, according to 247Sports, but has yet to “pop” for KU. If he can add some offense to his solid defense that gives KU a great piece to add to this rotation that will be incredibly reliable and add nice depth.
3. Mizzou in No-Man’s Land
This is another reminder that Mizzou should have never left the Big 12 Conference for the SEC. There is little juice around this program in its two key sports. The football team is coming off a 3-5 conference record, while going 6-6 overall. Sure, there’s always some optimism and Coach Drinkwitz provides some of that, especially given what his 2022 recruiting class is looking like.
But on the basketball court, there’s even less optimism right now. Coach Martin saw six players entered the transfer portal this offseason, which created a situation where the Tigers are returning just one player who averaged more than 6.2 points.
Then, you look at the atmosphere from today at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. When is the last time Mizzou fans were that excited about someone coming to their place? KU will get it when Iowa State to Lawrence. Same with Texas, West Virginia, and even a rival having a down season like K-State will have more enthusiasm than Mizzou vs. Ole Miss on a Tuesday night.
Saturday was a reminder of what the Tigers are missing out on from a rivalry and regional perspective. Let’s just hope the slightly bigger paycheck is worth it.