University of Kansas

Rivalry Week, Part II

LAWRENCE — All day Friday, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor continued to get these odd phone calls. A number Taylor didn't know would appear on his cell phone, he would answer and someone would ask him if he was selling a dog.

"I don't have a dog," Taylor would tell the callers.

Taylor was very confused at first, but it eventually clicked with him once some of his KU teammates told him they had seen flyers posted in dorms and classrooms all over campus featuring Taylor's name and number and a message that Taylor had a dog for sale. It was Missouri week, after all, which meant that these phone calls probably could be traced to MU's famed student fan group, "the Antlers." Even Taylor, a sophomore from Hoboken, N.J., knew enough to harbor that suspicion.

"I think so," Taylor said.

It's debatable whether Missouri coach Mike Anderson would have wanted the most fervent members of his student body reminding the Jayhawks that they had one more huge rivalry game to play this week. Kansas expended much energy and plenty of emotion on Wednesday in dispelling Kansas State 82-65 on senior night, where it seemed every member of the KU team had something yanking on their tear ducts.

The Jayhawks sent Sherron Collins out on top in Allen Fieldhouse, clinched the outright Big 12 regular season title and also positioned themselves for a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, so technically they could have viewed their work as complete for the regular season. KU coach Bill Self realized he had one chip to play in getting the Jayhawks tuned in for today's season finale.

"We were hammered from a fatigue standpoint," Self said. "A lot went into Wednesday. It was an emotional deal. We just met (Thursday) because they were spent. We talked about 'It's Mizzou.' "

Self went on to give a variation of the obligatory "these teams would be excited to play shirts and skins against each other" comment, and he may be right. But certainly the antics of the Missouri students can only help as No. 2 KU goes for a season sweep of its rivals. It also can't hurt that the Jayhawks coughed up a 30-16 halftime lead in Columbia last season before losing 62-60.

"The way we did it last year was pretty upsetting," KU guard Brady Morningstar said.

For Missouri, this game means a ton tangibly. The Tigers can stay alive for a first-round Big 12 Tournament bye and greatly improve their attractiveness in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. For Kansas, it's the ultimate pride game.

"It's a rivalry game," KU center Cole Aldrich said. "Whether it's at the beginning of the season or like it is now where we have the Big 12 title locked up, we're just trying to play the best basketball from here on out. Going over there and playing well will definitely help us in the next month."

This time of year, as the Jayhawks are trying to move into high gear, they don't want a lot of stopping and starting. KU broke down in Stillwater, Okla., last Saturday, got revved up again on Wednesday and would prefer to make good time today heading into a stop in Kansas City next week.

"Obviously, we have the Big 12 locked up, but you don't want to go and lose a game before the start of the Big 12 Tournament," Morningstar said. "You'd like to gain some momentum, which is why this game's pretty important."