The pressure that Missouri applied throughout the game finally paid off in the second half as the host Tigers rallied from a 30-16 halftime deficit to defeat reigning national champion Kansas, 62-60, Monday night.
The Tigers limited the effectiveness of the Jayhawks' leading scorers - Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins - holding the duo to just 17 points. Collins was especially put off his game by the constant trapping, hitting just 4 of 13 shots, including 0-4 from three-point range. The effects of Missouri's steady defense seemed to also accompany him to the free throw line, where he hit just one of four attempts.
This was a game of statistical anomalies. The Tigers were outrebounded by Kansas, 48-28, hit just 2 of 14 3's, but countered their poor offensive play (36% from the field) with ball-hawking that resulted in 26 KU turnovers.
Missouri's DeMarre Carroll led all scorers with 22 points. Leo Lyons chipped in with 13. They were the only Tigers in double figures.
The win puts #17 Missouri in good shape for a run at the Big 12 title. Their unique defensive style - modeled after former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's "40 minutes of hell" - generally makes life on the Mizzou court a harrowing experience for their opponents.
The win was their 4th straight and improved their conference record to 8-2. The loss was the first in the conference for Kansas, now 8-1, trailing 9-0 Oklahoma. The biggest test for the upstart Tigers, who haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2003, comes in March, when they play at Kansas on March 1 and then host Oklahoma on March 4 before closing out the season at Texas A&M on March 7.
Missouri improved to 21-4 overall, while the Jayhawks slid to 19-5. Both teams seem capable of making some late-winter noise.
Elsewhere, Sam Young scored 22 points to lead #4 Pitt over Big East rival West Virginia, 70-59. The Panthers improved to 9-2 in conference play and 22-2 overall while the Mountaineers fell to 5-6 in the Big East and 16-8 overall, putting them securely on the NCAA bid bubble.