The Kansas Jayhawks took a quick road trip down I-70 to visit their former Big 8 and Big 12 rival the Missouri Tigers in Columbia, Missouri on Saturday afternoon. Last year in Lawrence, Kansas the Jayhawks defeated the Tigers 102-65. This year, we were told, things would be different.
Missouri fired head coach Cuonzo Martin after five years of mediocre basketball and things had fallen off badly last year for the Tigers. They hired former Florida State assistant and Cleveland State head coach Dennis Gates to turn things around. Gates went to work immediately by jumping into the transfer portal pool. Gates retooled Missouri’s roster by bringing in eight transfers to the program.
On the other side, Kansas is coming off a National Championship season and head coach Bill Self had to do some retooling of his own after losing more than a half dozen players to the NBA and graduation. Adding four top-tier freshmen, including starter Gradey Dick, and a couple of transfers, including starter Kevin McCuller Jr, seem to have helped the Jayhawks early on in the season.
Missouri and their fanbase were talking a big game heading into this one. The Tigers were 9-0 on the season, despite having the 246th ranked strength of schedule heading into the game, while the Jayhawks were 8-1 while holding a top ten strength of schedule. The student section was out in full force and let the players and coaches hear it during warm-ups and as the game began.
The Jayhawks weren’t phased by the crowd or the team on the other side of the court. Kansas got out to an early lead and never looked back. It was the Dick show throughout the first 10 minutes of the game as the freshman from Wichita, Kansas scored 15 of his 16 points during that stretch to get the Jayhawks off to a hot start. He finished the game with seven rebounds and five assists as the game progressed.
Sophomore big man, KJ Adams, was also dominant from the start, throwing down several highlight-reel dunks on the offensive end and making one of the most powerful blocks you’ll see this season midway through the first half. Adams was a tone-setter and he finished the game with a career-high 19 points. He added six rebounds and three assists as well.
Kevin McCuller Jr. had another fine game with 21 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Dejuan Harris Jr. led the team in assists with nine, and Jalen Wilson had another double-double, leading the team with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The starters dominated this game so much, they didn’t need much from the bench in this one.
The Jayhawks didn’t hit the century mark but they won the game with ease and the final score was indicative of that. The 95-67 win was the largest margin of victory in Columbia since 1957. It was an impressive effort from Kansas and it once again showed the gap between the Border Showdown rivals.
The two teams will meet again next year in Lawrence, Kansas and we’ll see if the gap has closed at all after another year has passed. If it’s anything like what we’ve seen the past two seasons, the Jayhawks will roll to another easy win over the Tigers yet again.
Now Kansas will go back to work this week as they are set to wrap up the 2022 calendar year with three consecutive home games in Lawrence. KU will kick off this string of games against a tough top-15 opponent. #14 Indiana will visit the KU campus to take on the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse this Saturday at 11:00 am on ESPN. The Hoosiers will bring an 8-2 record into the matchup while the Jayhawks will be 9-1.
A win for Kansas would put another feather in the cap for the Jayhawks as they build an impressive non-conference resume before heading into a tough Big 12 Conference slate of games. This game could have implications on seeding come time for the national tournament during March Madness as well. It will be a battle of two blue-blood programs, and it should be a lot more competitive than what we saw in the Jayhawks’ domination of Missouri this past weekend.