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The team KU fans love to hate brings best out of Allen Fieldhouse

Fans in the student section swing towels as the Jayhawks take the court on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Fans in the student section swing towels as the Jayhawks take the court on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Allen Fieldhouse was built for games like this.

During the nine full seasons that Kansas went without facing its historical rival from across the state line, seldom did the name of an opponent alone drum up the type of atmosphere that makes college basketball, and this venue in particular, memorable. Outside of Kentucky running onto James Naismith Court to face the Jayhawks, nothing sets a KU home crowd off quite like Missouri.

Thanks to time healing some old SEC exit wounds, KU basketball versus Mizzou returned from its nine-year hiatus on Saturday. And KU’s fans ate up every second of it.

Between the pandemic diminishing crowds to more of an afterthought status for a full season and the renewal of the Border Showdown happening in Lawrence instead of Columbia, Missouri, the scene actually lived up to the hype — even if the 102-65 rout robbed it of drama or status as an all-time classic.

As much as senior Ochai Agbaji, junior Christian Braun and sophomore Dajuan Harris and their teammates deserve credit for executing on the floor, even Bill Self admitted the 16,300 in attendance deserved an assist for setting the tone. Self acknowledged that the maniacs who spent the afternoon jumping and screaming and occasionally yelling not so PG things at the Tigers actually had a lot to do with the Jayhawks’ energy and focus.

“It was great to start,” Self said of the Border Showdown’s return. “The crowd was amped and we were amped. Great atmosphere. We played extremely well, so that made it more fun — at least for us.”

This was a two-hour long party if you showed up wearing crimson and/or blue.

Though the game lacked entertainment value for any neutral observer tuning in on ESPN, it had everything KU fans who love to hate Mizzou had been missing all these years.

KU’s student section was littered with signs like, “Mizzou Hates Christmas.” The rabid fans got to jeer a Tigers coach for the first time in nearly a decade, and delighted in watching Cuonzo Martin get whistled for a technical foul.

And as loud as they got to erupt following a 3-pointer from Harris or Agbaji or Braun’s hammer dunk in the first half, they also got to boo their hearts out. When a replay on the video board showed that Mizzou big man Jordan Wilmore gave a get-off-me arm extension in the general direction of Mitch Lightfoot’s head, the fans showered their rivals with boos, and then got to celebrate the technical foul that followed.

The game turned into the type of bloodbath that ravenous, KU-loving, Mizzou-loathing fans live for. They got to revel in the Tigers’ misfortunes. The student section got to swoon for mulleted cult hero walk-on Chris Teahan with minutes left in the second half instead of seconds. And they got to explode when super-senior Teahan released a pure 3-pointer to put KU over the century mark.

Agbaji, Bruan and Harris said they never had heard the fieldhouse as loud as it was Saturday.

“You play off of it,” Agbaji said of the impact the mob had on the Jayhawks. “But coach was talking to us, you kind of already have that energy going into the game, even in warmups. So you kind of have to find that happy medium of being composed and having the energy, playing with energy.”

KU’s fans and students don’t have to worry about finding that equilibrium. And both Agbaji and Braun expressed their appreciation for the raucous student section in particular.

Braun said: “Some of those students camped out for a week to watch us play. So they’re passionate. We’ve got to give them something in return. We appreciate that and all that they do for us, so that passion and energy was matched.”

This rivalry is so good that a game that didn’t even count in October of 2017 — an exhibition inside then-Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo. — had the vibes of a battle in late February.

Now the games count again. And Kansas, Missouri and college basketball are better for it.

And the KU fan base can once again scratch that notorious black and gold itch.

Comments

Matt Gauntt

The wounds of Missouri pulling a Benedict Arnold to leave the Big 12 have NOT healed. Prior to that, if you looked up "longest running rivalries, KU-MU and KU-NU were in the top 5 all time. Both schools abandoned the Big 12 and both of them have slid into obscurity. Nebraska, which at one time was one of the GREAT programs was 3-9 this year in football. Missouri finished 6-6 in football. I will cheer for any team that plays either one of them. Long live the spirit of Don Fambrough. If Missouri wins one more game in basketball this year, it will be one too many.

11 months, 2 weeks ago

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Lee Short

Matt Gauntt, you make some great points.

Below is the perspective from someone who has lived in KC, Denver and LA.

If you google it, you will also find more than a few .people associated with CU have regretted leaving the Big 12/8 on several fronts. Their financial results have not been what they thought. (KU and even K-state) have done better on revenue. The cultural fit is even less congruent. Their performance has also not been that great.

Ironically, among the most viewed sporting event by the CU football faithful has been when they have Nebraska.

I predict Oklahoma, regardless of the money, will someday regret their decision, but it will help with the fan base that Texas and Oklahoma will have each other to play.

11 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bj Cassady

I always root against Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska for leaving the big 12. I never felt like Texas A&M was a part of the Big 12 and care less. I will root against OU and UT after they leave also. BOO to traitors!

11 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brian Skelly

KU and Mizzou should play each other in sports again. But it won't be the same, ever. There's no direct connection or meaning other than bragging rights now. Which is fine and fun. It would certainly help if Mizzou became better at hoops again and KU became better at football again. Both will happen at some point.

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As an alum who lives in St. Louis (Tigers Central) I can tell you the Bragging Rights game with Mizzou-Illinois every year around the holidays has always been big. It's not as big as it used to be to be fair, but there's never been the connection between IU/MU that KU/MU has had, but it's still a pretty big deal to the fans on both sides. And im quite sure both schools make more $$$ out of it than they would having a home game.

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Now, im NOT as sure KU would make more having it at T-Mobile Center (Mizzou certainly would), but I think having annual game there (or at least somewhat annual) game there would benefit both schools, and the both fan bases. I'd rather have a KU/Mizzou game in KC than a KU / UTEP / Washington State / whomever KU schedules to get throttled.

11 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dale Stringer

I can't blame NU for leaving at all. I remember the Big 8 and when one of the biggest college football games of the year was Nebraska/Oklahoma. Then Texas showed up and ruined everything. The Red River Rivalry used to be an OU/UT thing. With UT in the league, the Big 12 made it a Big 12 thing and marginalized the NU/OU game. I'd feel slighted too. I wish they'd come back after we get Texas out of here.

I miss CU too and don't blame them for leaving either. They witnessed what the Big 12 did to NU. With NU gone, there goes their biggest rival.

A&M - agreed I always felt like they were just here. I think the Big 12 NU'd them too. For a century the UT/A&M game was the biggest game in the state of Texas. A year after they both came to the Big 12, the game became second fiddle to Red River for UT. As the years went on, it seemed it became just another game to the Big 12 and not special.

MU - Now the only reason they left was the football $$$$. I never want to play them in football again. I have a little sympathy for them in other sports because football made them go. Now that all the leadership that took them away was either fired or made to resign in disgrace, we can play them - once per year per sport (Not football). Preferably at KU or a neutral site and not in Columbia.

I would welcome back NU, CU and A&M (hey A&M - bring Arkansas with you).
I am happy to see Georgia giving the beatdown to MU every year that they deserve.
I gladly wish UT farewell (door slammed).
I feel that OU is making an MU-level mistake and I hope they fail in every game except when they play UK and MU in basketball and UT and MU in football.

11 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Brian - IU is in Bloomington, IN. I think you are referring to UofI from Champagne.

“scratch that notorious black and gold itch” sounds like athlete’s foot or something.

It doesn’t seem likely that any of the other teams/uni’s would return though it is nice to get football players from Lincoln.

11 months, 2 weeks ago

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