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Missouri-Kansas Preview

AP - Sports

The storied 105-year rivalry between Missouri and Kansas will come to an end for the foreseeable future following Saturday afternoon's game at Allen Fieldhouse.

That final meeting as conference foes will have more than just long-term bragging rights on the line.

A win for the third-ranked Tigers would aid their chances for their first Big 12 regular-season title, while the No. 4 Jayhawks can extend their unprecedented run of league championships.

Missouri and Kansas have played each other annually since 1907 and the initial matchups carry some history. The Tigers ended basketball inventor James Naismith's nine-season tenure as Jayhawks' inaugural coach with wins on back-to-back days in Lawrence, Kan.

The next season, Missouri and Kansas - in its first campaign under legendary coach Phog Allen - joined what's now known as the Missouri Valley Conference. The rivals remained together during the founding of the Big Six in 1928-29 and the formation of the Big 12 in 1996-97.

The Tigers, though, will head for the SEC following this season, and the Jayhawks have repeatedly expressed no desire to continue the series.

That leaves Saturday's matchup as the chance for each team to leave an indelible mark.

For Kansas, there's also the opportunity to continue a school-record streak. The Jayhawks (23-5, 13-2) are seeking to win or share an eighth consecutive Big 12 title, its 12th in the conference's 16-year history and an NCAA-best 55th overall.

They can accomplish that goal with a win, but a loss moves them back into a tie with the Tigers (25-3, 12-3), whose 2009 tournament championship remains its lone Big 12 crown.

"There's a lot on the line," center Jeff Withey said. "If we win this game, we put ourselves in a really good position to win the Big 12. It's against Missouri, and that is always big for (Kansas).

Kansas enters this game having won five in a row, including a 66-58 win at Texas A&M on Wednesday, but it still hasn't forgotten its previous loss, a bitter 74-71 defeat in Columbia, Mo., on Feb. 4. The Tigers erased an eight-point deficit over the final 2:08 as leading scorer Marcus Denmon produced a personal 9-0 run.

"We're still bitter about the first time we played them," Jayhawks guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "We felt like we let that one slip away, so we're going to try to bounce back at home."

Missouri heads into this game after having a seven-game win streak snapped with a 78-68 home loss to Kansas State on Tuesday. The Tigers gave up 32 points in the paint during that defeat and were outshot 53.8 to 38.3 percent.

"We have to have a little more resistance in the paint. That's the biggest thing I took away from the K-State game is we didn't have great resistance when they got the ball close to the basket," coach Frank Haith said.

Haith's team, which has two players in its regular seven-man rotation taller than 6-foot-6, will likely need a better effort during another matchup with 6-10 Jayhawks star Thomas Robinson and the 7-foot Withey.

Missouri held Withey scoreless and to just one shot attempt in the previous game. Robinson had 19 of his team-best 25 points in the second half but didn't take any shots over the final 2:26.

"I have to be a lot more aggressive," Withey said. "I need to be a factor in the game."

If it can get a little more out of its big men, Kansas might have a chance to win its first top 10 matchup with Missouri in four tries. The then-No. 2 Tigers claimed one of those victories at Allen Fieldhouse over the No. 1 team in the country on Feb. 13, 1990, but they've lost 12 straight in Lawrence since Jan. 24, 1999.

Kansas holds a 171-95 series lead but those 95 wins for Missouri represent the most by any opponent against the Jayhawks.

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