Until the final three minutes Kansas played the game coach Bill Self deemed necessary to win at fourth-ranked Missouri.
The Jayhawks pounded the ball to Thomas Robinson in the second half after riding Tyshawn Taylor in the first half.
The result was an eight-point lead on Taylor’s dunk with 3:25 remaining. Just stay in control down the stretch and Kansas would close the Big 12 history between the schools in Columbia with a glorious triumph.
Those three minutes will haunt the Jayhawks, who fell 74-71 on Saturday.
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“It’s a sucky feeling,” Taylor said.
Missouri made every play and Kansas made none down the stretch. Marcus Denmon was unstoppable with nine of the Tigers’ and the game’s final 11 points, and the Jayhawks stopped themselves, or so they believed.
“We definitely did this to ourselves,” center Jeff Withey said. “We had the lead, if we would have just held on to the ball, it would have been a different outcome.”
Instead a series of misplays after the Jayhawks took a 71-63 lead doomed the Jayhawks, and it started when they had the ball.
Robinson missed a shot, got the rebound but turned it over.
“Bad possession,” Self said. “We wanted to use a little clock but he tried to score too quickly. He played his butt off and it’s hard fault a guy for trying.”
Robinson finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, with 19 points scored in the second half. Taylor had 21, with 17 coming in the first half.
Denmon, who led all scorers with 29, answered with a drive and foul, and after making the layup, the Tigers’ were down five with 2:07 remaining.
Here is where things really started to unravel.
Robinson made a move to the basket and fingered rolled in a layup with his left hand. But he was called for a charge when Steve Moore stepped in front of him. Afterwards, Self said several people “not Kansas people” told him it was a bad call. On the ESPN broadcast, Dick Vitale vehemently disagreed with the charging call.
“The ref saw what he saw,” Robinson said. “I didn’t agree with it.”
Missouri took full advantage. Denmon popped in a three-pointer and the Kansas lead was down to 71-69 with 1:32 remaining.
If Self started to develop a sinking feeling here he could hardly be blamed. His teams had won four of its past five games in Mizzou Arena, but the last loss was a heart-breaker, blowing a 14-point halftime lead to lose on Zaire Taylor’s runner in the final seconds.
A Matt Pressey steal set up Denmon once again, dropping in a three-pointer from the corner. Missouri led 72-71 with 55 seconds remaining.
Kansas was rattled. The Jayhawks had played so well for so long and looked to be in a strong position to beat a top-five ranked team for the third time this season. But now, the Jayhawks were trailing for the first time since opening the second half on an 11-5 to erase a five-point halftime deficit.
Finally, something went Kansas’ way. Taylor was fouled by Mike Dixon going to the basket. Taylor is a 68-percent free throw shooter. But he missed both of them long.
Still, the Jayhawks got a reprieve when Phil Pressey short-armed the front end with 22 seconds remaining.
But Kansas couldn’t cash in on the new life. Taylor was called for a charge, when Dixon got in front of him in the lane. Dixon buried two free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining, and the Jayhawks had a final gasp.
The Mario Chalmers play, the drive and dish to the cutter for a three-pointer wasn’t smooth. Elijah Johnson ended up with the ball at the top of the key, guarded and off-balanced. It wound up a wild shot that didn’t come close.
The loss was crushing for the eighth-ranked Jayhawks, who fell to 18-5 overall and at 8-2 in the Big 12 are tied with the Tigers and Baylor — Wednesday’s opponent in Waco, Tex. — for first place.
“I’m leaving here disappointed we lost, but I’m leaving here knowing we have a good team,” Self said. “What should give us confidence is that when we play a certain way, inside out, we’re pretty good.
“But tonight was our game to win, and we didn’t get it done.”