Missouri 72, No. 7 Kansas 68
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—Kansas lost the outright Big 12 title, and may have lost one of its best players.
Thomas Gardner matched his career best with 23 points and Linas Kleiza tied his with 14 rebounds, helping Missouri to a 72-68 upset Sunday that knocked the seventh-ranked Jayhawks into a tie for first place with Oklahoma.
Fans from the first sellout of the season at the new Mizzou Arena streamed onto the court at the finish as Missouri ended a four-game losing streak to its bitter border rival.
“We’ve shown all season we can play with good teams,” guard Jason Conley said. “We just have to keep it going, that’s all it is.”
Kansas forward Keith Langford had five points in 3 minutes before re-injuring the left ankle he hurt at the start of practice last week. Langford, who was on crutches after the game, is the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer at 15.1 points.
Coach Bill Self characterized the injury as “pretty severe.”
“I think it affects us tremendously,” Self said. “He’s the best slasher in the league, but that’s not an excuse. He can’t put any weight on it, whatsoever.”
Langford, who was injured when he stepped on Brian Dailey’s foot, was more optimistic and hopes to play in this week’s conference tournament. Second-seeded Kansas’ first game is Friday against either Kansas State or Texas A&M.
“I don’t feel this is really going to be long-term,” Langford said. “I’m just going to get with the doctor and get everything taken care of, then go from there.”
Wayne Simien had 17 points and eight rebounds for Kansas (22-5, 12-4). But Simien, who had 57 points and 32 rebounds in his previous two games, went more than 15 minutes between field goals in the first half.
The loss also could knock Kansas, which has lost four of six, out of the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“I’m not going to cry about it and they had better not, either,” Self said. “We had chances to win this league, and we let opportunities slip through our fingers.”
Jimmy McKinney also tied his career best with 21 points and Kleiza had 15 as the Tigers (15-15, 7-9) played one of their best games of the season four days after losing by 18 points at Iowa State.
“I think it helps our guys in a lot of ways,” coach Quin Snyder said. “I’d like for it not to be the culmination of our season.”
McKinney helped fill the void when starting freshman point guard Jason Horton was suspended Sunday on a game-to-game basis for “conduct detrimental to the team.” McKinney was 6-for-7 from the field, hit all three of his 3-pointers, and added four assists and only two turnovers.
“That’s what we’ve been waiting on all year from Jimmy,” Gardner said. “I think he played his game, had his mind free and full confidence.”
Kansas erased a 15-point second-half deficit before Missouri clinched it at the free throw line and with the help of two turnovers in the final 90 seconds by Jayhawks point guard Aaron Miles. Missouri had only two field goals over the final 10 1/2 minutes, but was 7-for-10 at the line in the last 5 minutes.
“It feels great to beat Kansas,” Kleiza said. “We’ve got to take what we did good in this game and move on.”
Miles and J.R. Giddens, whose 3-pointer tied it at 64 with 3:26 to go, each added 13 points for Kansas.
Missouri, which had lost its previous two games, gets the eighth seed in the tournament after Snyder won for only the fourth time in 11 chances against Kansas.
Self had been 7-0 against Missouri, including three victories with Kansas.
Missouri built a 43-34 halftime lead on uncharacteristically accurate 3-point shooting, going 8-of-10. The Tigers, who shoot 31 percent from 3-point range, missed all eight attempts the rest of the way.
Missouri led 49-34 with 17:36 to go and was still comfortably ahead at 61-50 with 7 1/2 minutes left before Kansas scored nine straight points to shave the deficit to two.
But Kansas, which scored the first eight points of the game, was never able to regain the lead.