Kansas’ unbeaten start has brought back memories of the success of the school’s football team. That squad’s bid for perfection, however, ended with a loss to its biggest rival.
The third-ranked Jayhawks (17-0, 2-0 Big 12) hope to avoid a similar fate Saturday as they try to remain one of three unbeaten Division I teams and hand Missouri (11-6, 1-1) its first home loss of the season.
Kansas is off to its best start since the 1996-97 team began 22-0, and the talk on campus has been about the similarities to this past football season. Those Jayhawks went 12-1 to enjoy the best football season in school history.
“Together now, we’re 29-1. That’s impressive,” Kansas freshman center Cole Aldrich said. “I love it. I love winning.”
The lone loss for the football team, though, was a 36-28 defeat to Missouri that cost Kansas a chance at the Big 12 title. The archrival Tigers have historically provided problems for the Jayhawks in all sports, and have already beaten a ranked team on the hardwood with last Saturday’s 97-84 win over then-No. 12 Texas.
“They have really nice pieces,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I see them as a much improved team and a tougher team than what we faced last year.”
The Jayhawks beat the Tigers twice last season, including a 92-74 road victory for their first win in Columbia in three tries. Kansas has won seven of the last nine meetings with Missouri, which is 10-0 at home this season.
The Jayhawks’ unbeaten record has overshadowed the rivalry with the Tigers heading into the weekend. Only top-ranked North Carolina and No. 2 Memphis also remain perfect.
“There could be pressure if we’re undefeated two weeks from now,” Self said. “But right now … our season’s just starting. We’re 17-0. But all but three of those are considered home games. If we’re undefeated two or three weeks from now, there’ll be pressure.”
Kansas hasn’t played since an 85-55 win over Oklahoma on Monday. Darnell Jackson scored 17 points and Brandon Rush added 16 for the Jayhawks, who have won their last six games by an average of more than 27 points.
“One guy can get the hot hand,” Jackson said. “Then another guy can get the hot hand. As long as we play together, we’ll win a lot of games.”
The Jayhawks top the Big 12 in scoring at 83.8 points per game.
Missouri will be trying to recover from yet another close loss, 72-67 at Iowa State on Wednesday. The Tigers have dropped four games by five points or less.
“It’s been the same thing, it seems like, over and over,” guard Keon Lawrence said. “We’re in every game, and we spot them too many to begin with.”
DeMarre Carroll scored 19 points to lead Missouri, which had 17 turnovers and allowed the Cyclones to shoot 37 free throws.
“We dug ourselves a big hole,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “It came down to keeping them off the free-throw line and shooting well. We put them on the line too much and we had too many turnovers.”
Led by Carroll, all of the Tigers’ starters average between 9.8 and 14.9 points.