Columbia, Mo. Winning in overtime ... at Missouri ... to start the Big Eight basketball season ...
"It doesn't get any better than this," Kansas guard Rex Walters said after the Jayhawks' 92-80 extra-session win over Missouri on Monday night at Hearnes Center.
Walters drained a rainbow three-pointer with 1:59 left in OT to turn a two-point KU lead into an insurmountable 83-78 advantage. He also cashed two free throws at 1:17 that put the Jayhawks up by seven. All told, he scored nine of KU's 19 overtime points.
"This is what they call a hugger," Walters said. "You want to go hug all your teammates because so many guys contributed."
Many Jayhawks nine played 15 minutes or more contributed out of necessity.
KU entered OT without Richard Scott, Eric Pauley and Ben Davis, who fouled out at 2:44, 1:08 and :01 respectively. Alonzo Jamison, who sat out a 10-minute stretch in the second half after picking up his fourth foul, was whistled for No. 5 with 3:24 left in OT.
"THIS WAS A testimony to our depth," said KU coach Roy Williams, whose Jayhawks won for the second straight year in Columbia. "I've always said the only way to have depth is to play it. We have played those kids quite a bit. This says we have pretty doggone good depth."
KU nearly avoided stretching its roster to the limit. The Jayhawks, who led by as many as eight the first half and trailed by as many as six the second, took a 73-71 lead on a Davis dunk following a pin-point Jamison pass with 36 ticks left in regulation.
After working the clock to about 10 seconds, Anthony Peeler, who finished with 30 points, fired an errant shot from the corner.
MU missed three short follow shots, and Davis fouled Peeler in the act of shooting with one tick left. Peeler, after a KU time out, forced OT by hitting both free throws.
Kansas switched defenses repeatedly, even employing a box-and-one late, but Peeler still hit 13 of 13 free throws. Missouri was 33-of-49 at the line, KU 25-of-33.
"ANTHONY PEELER is just amazing. I can't figure out a defense to keep him off the free throw line," Williams said. "We kept changing up to throw him off. Patrick (Richey), Steve (Woodberry) and Alonzo (Jamison) did a good job chasing on the point and one."
KU's Adonis Jordan missed a desperation shot from behind half court as time ran out, and the teams went to OT tied at 73.
Woodberry, who had a career-high 19 points, opened OT by hitting a three-pointer with 4:46 left.
"It was a set play, but he didn't have to take it," Williams said.
Missouri trimmed KU's lead to one on a Peeler dunk 34 seconds into the extra period, but could never take the lead.
What was arguably the game's biggest play came with 1:59 left and Kansas ahead, 80-78. Jordan fired a pass to Walters, who hit a bomb with two seconds left on the shot clock. The Jayhawks outscored MU, 9-2, the rest of the way.
"It was a big-time shot," Williams said.
LOOKING BACK, KU couldn't have played much better in OT, hitting four of five shots and nine of 10 free throws in outscoring the Tigers, 19-7.
"I think it was our best game of the year," Williams said. "Steve Woodberrry was fantastic. Patrick Richey (four points) had his moments. Eric Pauley (15) came alive tonight. Ben (10 points) did the same thing. You can go down the line."
Pauley had 15 points, including 10 in the first half when KU nabbed a 38-36 lead.
It was a first half of runs.
KU went on a 9-0 roll to wipe out a 9-4 deficit and grab a 13-9 lead. Undaunted, Mizzou went on a 7-0 roll and led, 16-13 at 11:20. KU then scored 11 straight points to lead, 24-16 with 8:05 left.
Woodberry hit a long two-pointer right at the buzzer, giving KU its two-point halftime lead.
"I think that was a big shot. It gave us a lift going into halftime," Williams said.
THE SECOND half was close, until MU spurted to a 62-56 lead with 8:11 left.
Walters, however, hit a three, and, after a missed free throw, Pauley stuck in a follow shot and suddenly it was a one-point game again at 7:42.
It was back and forth until KU's overtime dominance.
"I think ESPN with Big Monday . . . they might not have liked the one last week. That wasn't Big Eight basketball. K-State had an off-night," Williams said referring to Oklahoma State's home blowout of the Wildcats. "This was Big Eight basketball. You'll see a lot of games like this. It doesn't matter if you're at home or on the road. You have to play well to win."
KU is idle until Saturday, when it will meet Colorado in Boulder. Tipoff is set for 7:08 p.m.