LAWRENCE, Kan. — Three-quarters of the way through the first half, the University of Missouri men’s basketball team was enjoying a respectable showing Saturday against the University of Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
The eighth-ranked Jayhawks were heavily favored against a Tigers team that already has losses to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Liberty University on the season resume.
Mizzou had managed to keep the deficit in single digits through most of the first 15 minutes before a flurry of turnovers fueled a flurry of fast-break points for KU, which pulled away late in the first half and rolled to a 102-65 win in the first Hy-Vee Hoops Border Showdown in 3,577 days.
“It was a good win, and we’re going to keep improving,” Jayhawks senior guard Ochai Agbaji, who scored a game-high 21 points, said.
The 37-point win was the second-largest margin of victory in Border War history since at least 1950 behind only a 96-49 KU win on Dec. 28, 1977.
It’s the second time since 2002 the Jayhawks have hung 100 points on the Tigers.
“The crowd was amped; we were amped," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Great atmosphere. We played extremely well, so that made it more fun — at least for us. ... Certainly, the crowd had a lot to do with our energy and our focus."
With under five minutes before intermission, a David McCormack steal led to an uncontested Christian Braun dunk.
One possession later, Braun pushed the ball upcourt off a defensive rebound and found Dajuan Harris Jr. in transition for a left-handed layup and a 15-point lead.
“Obviously, I was amped up for this game,” said Braun, whose mother and brother are among four family members to have played for Mizzou.
Those two fast-break buckets came amid a 17-4 closing kick as the Jayhawks turned a single-point lead into laughter by halftime.
The sold-out crowd of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse didn’t need much of a push to get fired up for the first regular-season meeting between the former Big 12 rivals in nearly a decade.
Missouri and Kansas hadn’t played in a non-exhibition basketball game since Feb. 25, 2012.
“It was fun playing in front of a crowd like this,” said Mizzou junior Kobe Brown, who scored five with a team-high six rebounds. “I haven’t had many games in front of a crowd that big, maybe Braggin’ Rights (against Illinois) two years ago.”
Braun scored eight of KU’s first 11 points in racing to an early eight-point lead, and the Jayhawks never led by fewer than six points during the final 17 minutes of the half, building a 49-27 halftime lead.
Mizzou (5-5) managed to keep things close for the first 15 minutes behind senior guard Javon Pickett, who finished the half with a game-best 15 points, but KU (8-1) kept the lead at arm’s length thanks in large part to a huge edge at the free-throw line.
The Tigers were only 2 of 2 at the stripe, while the Jayhawks went 11 of 13 to help pull away headed into the break.
Three players with local ties — Braun, Harris and Agbaji — combined for 33 of Kansas’ 49 first-half points.
Agbaji, an Oak Park graduate from Kansas City, Missouri, scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the first half.
Braun, a Blue Valley Northwest graduate and the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, and Harris — a 2019 graduate of Rock Bridge High School and the first Columbia, Missouri, native to suit up for the Jayhawks in program history — each had 10 points at halftime and finished with 13.
Agbaji, who hit 5 of 7 three-pointers, and Harris hit back-to-back three-pointers to open the second half in kicking off a 12-2 run that ended any idea of a Tigers comeback.
Kansas outscored Mizzou 53-38 in the second half as McCormack finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while point guard Remy Martin added 10 points and five assists.
KU is now 174-95 in series history against Mizzou, but this was the first meeting between the teams as non-conference foes.
The Jayhawks shot 14 of 27 from three-point range, went to the free-throw line 15 more times and scored 22 points off 20 turnovers by the Tigers, who went 5 of 16 from distance and got out-rebounded 36-26 in the loss.
“When you’re playing these good teams, you’ll have breakdowns here and there, but you have to execute what you’re trying to do on both sides of the basketball and give yourself the best chance to win the game,” Martin said. “We’ll learn from it.”
Pickett led the Tigers with 19 points.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Pickett said. “It was super loud. You wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”
Neither Brown nor Pickett was familiar with the depth of the rivalry before this week, but they get it now and are excited for future matchups with Kansas.
“I’m extremely motivated,” Brown said. "That game was a lot of fun. I know the outcome wasn’t great at all, but it was a good experience playing in front of a crowd like that, so I’m looking forward to the next one.”