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Christian Braun's emotional start helps power Kansas past Missouri

BV Northwest grad relishes Border War redux
Christian Braun
Posted at 6:40 PM, Dec 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-12 15:48:40-05

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas junior guard Christian Braun was raining in three-pointers, attacking the rim in the halfcourt, and gesturing in an animated fashion toward the Mizzou bench — and that was just the first few minutes Saturday as the Hy-Vee Hoops Border Showdown resumed after a 10-year hiatus at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.

“He was terrific,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It meant a lot to him for multiple reasons. … He’s grown up in a split household his whole life.”

If anyone on the floor understood the significance of the Border War’s return, it was Braun, who also had a dunk and assist for a layup on back-to-back fast breaks late in the first half as the Jayhawks pulled away.

Christian Braun
Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) goes up for a dunk in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Missouri, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Lawrence, Kan.

His father, Donny, was a walk-on at Kansas before transferring to St. Louis.

Braun’s brother, Parker, played the past two seasons at Mizzou before transferring to Santa Clara University, where he’s averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds this season.

His mother, the former Lisa Sandbothe, was a three-time All-Big Eight player for Mizzou. His uncle and aunt, Mike and Lori Sandbothe, also played for the Tigers.

The KU-MU rivalry is in Braun’s DNA, so his excitement was only eclipsed by the 16,300 rowdy, loud and raucous fans inside arguably college basketball’s most historic venue for the first regular-season meeting between the Tigers and Jayhawks since Feb. 25, 2012.

Mizzou only has three players from in-state — and none from the Kansas City area, where the Border War rivalry is most heated — on the current roster.

Kansas had Braun along with senior guard Ochai Agbaji, who graduated from Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri, and sophomore guard Dajuan Harris Jr., who played at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri.

“We probably had a bigger advantage over them in having people talk about how big it was on the team,” Self said.

The Jayhawks parlayed that — and having a better team — into the second-largest win in the series history since 1977, routing the Tigers 102-65.

But while not all the players were familiar with the intensity of the rivalry before the game, the fan response before and at the start of the game told Braun and company everything they needed to know.

“Some of those students camped out for a week to watch us play, so they’re passionate and we have to give them something in return,” he said. “We appreciate that and all that they do for us.”

Braun finished with 13 points, three assists and a game-high three blocks.

“I heard that they don’t think that people where I’m from can play with a lot of passion and be gritty, so I had to show them I could do that,” Braun said.

Agbaji added a game-high 21 points and four rebounds, while Harris scored a career-high 13 — including his first three 3-pointers of the season — and drew two key charges in the first half.

While the rivalry may have been dormant for a decade, everyone knew what the Border War was about afterwards — and KU was thrilled to come out on top, improving to 173-95 all-time in the series against Mizzou.

“There is an unspoken level of pride,” Agbaji said. “They’ve played in those games and watched other teams play in these games. It means a lot to them, too. We didn’t say much to them, but we gave them that look. I saw Tyshawn (Taylor), I saw Sherron (Collins) and kind of gave them that look like, ‘Good job, way to take care of business today.’”