border war

It may become, quite possibly, one of the most epochal plays in Kansas basketball history. The kind of play that shows up with Mario Chalmers and Wilt Chamberlain on the pre-game videos. The kind of play that, years from now, helps people remember this rivalry when it lived. And he did it, so he says, with his eyes closed.

The game, the last of its kind, the final Border Showdown with conference-title implications, was tied at 75 when junior forward Thomas Robinson blocked the shot.

Robinson abandoned senior guard Kim English in the right corner after sophomore guard Phil "Flip" Pressey ignored a screen and dashed for the hoop. With two seconds to play in regulation time, Robinson hung in the air and swatted Pressey's layup attempt with a hammering right hand, denying the Tigers a victory, sending the game into overtime and riling the Fieldhouse crowd to a volume that was deafening.

"Thomas isn't a shot blocker," coach Bill Self said. "That was a big-time play from a big-time player."

The No. 4 Jayhawks (24-5, 14-2) trailed by 19 points with 17 minutes left, but erased the deficit in an arduous second half and won 87-86 in overtime, clinching at least a share of an eighth consecutive Big 12 title.

"Revenge, payback," Robinson said. "It definitely feels good. It felt like someone just jumped us and ran away and we finally caught up to them."

For a 15 minute span, Missouri hit 17 of 23 shots while Kansas' offense sputtered. Robinson and junior center Jeff Withey, who turned his ankle early in the game, both picked up two fouls in the first half. The silent fear of the Fieldhouse, from the Kansas bench to the student section, was tangible.

"Missouri players played with house money," Self said. "We came out there trying to protect as opposed to go take."

With Robinson and Withey on the bench, Self played junior forward Kevin Young for 28 minutes and senior guard Conner Teahan for 37.

"Who would have ever thought that that would be what we needed to do to win?" Self said.

Young, who finished with eight rebounds, five points and four blocks, energized a stagnant Fieldhouse with dunks and hustle plays. However, it was senior guard Tyshawn Taylor who once again took nothing and turned it into points.

With his team down 19, Taylor hit a three-pointer, but was quickly answered with a three from senior guard Marcus Denmon. Taylor then found junior guard Elijah Johnson for two more threes in a 65-second span. Teahan hit two of his four threes after that to help carve into the Missouri lead.

Down 75-72, Johnson skipped a bounce pass to Robinson, who finished a layup with a Dixon foul, knocking him to a sideways landing on the blue paint. Robinson hit the free throw, then sent the game to overtime with his block.

Taylor hit a quick three for the first points of the overtime period and drained two free throws with eight seconds left to win the game. All this comes after Taylor missed two free throws in the final minute of the 74-71 loss at Mizzou Arena on Feb. 4.

"I feel good," Taylor said after the victory. "Words can't even describe how I feel."

After Taylor's free throws, the Tigers had one more chance, but Johnson blanketed Dixon, who zipped a pass to Denmon as the clock expired. Denmon's shot bounced around the rim and fell in, but it was just too late.

"We had the game in our hands," English said. "We gave them a gift."

As the buzzer sounded, Self walked on the court, the furor of the crowd swirling around him as he pumped his hands in the air.

"I'm not the most emotional guy," Self said. "But that was as good as it gets."

It was over. The final edition of the Border Showdown with everything on the line.

The comeback tied for the largest in Allen Fieldhouse history and gave fans of both sides a spectacle to witness before Missouri departs for the Southeastern Conference.

If it has to end, if these seemingly perfect foes must never again face off in an important game, at least it ended like this.

"We're never going to be a part of something," Robinson said, "as big as this game was tonight."

— Edited by Max Lush