LAWRENCE — Sure, the Kansas Jayhawks technically have recovered from their 16-point loss at Kansas State on Feb. 14. They have gone 4-0 since that rough night, which has helped them clinch a share of the Big 12 regular-season title.
But here's the thing: KU isn't really over it. Not one bit. Home victories over Colorado, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M with a road win at struggling Oklahoma sprinkled in the middle have only really served to rebuild the Jayhawks' confidence entering today's Border War at Mizzou Arena, where the Missouri Tigers are unbeaten.
This season finale represents a chance for No. 2 KU to erase the stink from its embarrassing defeat in Bramlage Coliseum and take it out on another bitter rival. If the "Rock Chalk" chant is sung today in Columbia, it will most certainly be the Jayhawks' redemption song.
"I'm actually kind of glad we're going into this game having lost at K-State," KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "It's like a learning experience. We just know what we have to do differently. We know from even before the game starts that our preparation has to be different. We have to go in there more focused in and ready to play, be more in tune with the scouting report and locked in defensively. Knowing how K-State went, we know we can't make those same mistakes."
Of course, Taylor would have preferred the Jayhawks won in Manhattan. But, since they did lose, today's game will be their best chance to turn it into a positive.
"That's a good point," KU coach Bill Self said. "We've only played one road game since K-State. That was Oklahoma, a game where we made shots early, so you didn't feel the pressure. We're gonna feel some pressure (today). We need to have a tight huddle and really talk about why we didn't succeed in Manhattan to make sure our mind-set is such that it gives us a better chance to in Columbia."
To review, the Jayhawks fell apart at K-State in all facets of the game. Jacob Pullen lit KU's guards up for 38 points. KU forward Markieff Morris had three points and no rebounds and was called for an intentional foul when his elbow hit Pullen. Taylor had six turnovers and one assist. When challenged, the Jayhawks did not band together.
"Keeping focus was the problem," KU guard Elijah Johnson said. "People started to pay too much attention to themselves instead of their teammates."
Certainly, even without their desire to avenge the K-State loss, the Jayhawks have plenty on the line today. A win or a Texas loss at Baylor clinches their third straight outright Big 12 regular-season title. And it's Missouri, so what more could Kansas need?
"You play shirts and skins with nobody in the stands, and I think our guys would be excited to play," Self said. "I'm sure they would, too. That's probably the primary thing, but also the chance to win the league outright is a big factor.... In this particular situation, it's totally good to be selfish. We don't have anything against Texas personally. We'd just assume the trophy reside only in Lawrence rather than Lawrence and Austin."
To Johnson, that should trump any extra motivation Missouri may have.
"We're playing for something real big," Johnson said. "I don't think going undefeated at home is as big as being Big 12 champions, but you see the picture."
Former assistant Ed Manning dies — Ed Manning, the father of Danny Manning and a former Kansas assistant coach, died Friday morning in Fort Worth of complications relating to a long-standing heart condition. He was 68.
"This is a huge loss for our family and the Jayhawk family," Danny Manning, a current KU assistant, said in a statement. "Many people have already reached out to us in such a short period, and we are very grateful for all the thoughts, well wishes and prayers for my father and for us."
Services for Ed Manning are pending. Danny Manning is on the Jayhawks' trip to Columbia for today's game and will catch up with his family following the game.
"Today, KU not only lost someone who was very instrumental to the success of Kansas basketball in the mid 1980s but also a very good man who was thought of so highly by everyone who came in contact with him," said KU coach Bill Self, who was a graduate assistant at Kansas in 1985-86. "In my brief time here, every player and every coach had nothing but the utmost respect for Ed. He was a coach who every player felt they could go talk to, and he always had their best interest at heart."
Former KU coach Larry Brown hired Ed to be his assistant in 1983, when Danny was a senior in high school in North Carolina and one of the most talented recruits in the country. According to a Sports Illustrated article, Ed, a former professional basketball player, had been a truck driver for the previous three years. Danny moved to Lawrence to finish his high-school career at Lawrence High, and he would soon commit to the Jayhawks.
Four years later, during his senior season of 1988, Danny led KU to the national championship.
Brown would leave for the San Antonio Spurs the next season, and Ed Manning followed him there. Ed Manning most recently served as an NBA scout.