Kansas fans thank Norfolk State for stunning upset of rival Missouri

As Missouri fans exited the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb., dejected and stunned following their team's 86-84 Friday loss to 15-seed Norfolk State, they likely caught plenty of verbal barbs from Kansas fans entering the building for the site's night session of games.

[ Related: Giant-killer: No. 15-seed Norfolk takes down Missouri ]

But it's likely that nothing was as rewarding for the Jayhawk faithful than getting a chance to actually thank the Norfolk State players, who sent Kansas' SEC-bound rivals packing from the NCAA tournament prematurely, slamming the door shut on the program's dreams of its first Final Four berth.

Kansas clearly benefited some from Missouri's season-ending loss, as it appeared to sharpen the team's focus. The Jayhawks then slammed upset-minded Detroit to cap off the night, 65-50, advancing to take on 10-seed Purdue on Sunday evening with a Sweet 16 trip on the line.

[ Y! Sports Shop: Buy Norfolk State team gear ]

During their romp of the Titans, the Norfolk State players emerged from their locker room to take in some of the action, and were welcomed with a standing ovation from the thousands of Kansas fans who made the quick trip.

It truly is unfortunate that the rivalry — for the time being, at least — is coming to an end, especially after it hit a new peak with two epic regular-season battles between two teams ranked in the Top 10 for the better part of the season.

Even though they didn't get to meet for a third time — as many hoped they would — in the Big 12 tournament title game, Kansas fans clearly enjoyed Friday's upset as a parting shot substitute.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for RunRebs.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanmgreene.

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