Third-ranked Kansas couldn't face losing to rival Missouri on Sunday in front of some of the greatest players in their history.
"I told the fellows in the lockerroom that if we lose this game, they should tear this building down because we should not be allowed back in here to play again," said Paul Pierce after he scored 29 points and Raef LaFrentz had 22 as the Jayhawks defeated the Tigers 80-70 to extend their homecourt winning streak to 58 games.
The game was played before about 200 former Kansas players at the conclusion of a weekend of celebration of the school's 100-year history of college basketball.
"It was really tough to block it out," Pierce said. "I tried not to look in the stands, but while I was stretching before the game, I caught myself looking up and seeing all these guys that you only see pictures of on the walls around here. I couldn't stop myself from looking."
The Jayhawks (26-3, 10-1 Big 12) built a big lead in the first half, but Missouri (13-10, 5-5) had a 15-2 run early in the second half to get back into the game.
"I don't think we played 40 minutes," Pierce said. "This is a big rivalry and we had a chance to put them away and we didn't do our job. I just think we weren't concentrating. The focus wasn't there. We were making silly turnovers that we shouldn't have, and they were able to capitalize on them."
Missouri, which had beaten Kansas 74-73 in Columbia Jan. 19, was the last team to win at Kansas before the Jayhawks went on the 58-game streak that dates back to February 1994.
Missouri was within 66-63 with 3:49 to play on a 3-pointer by John Woods, who led the Tigers with 18 points.
But C.B. McGrath found LaFrentz inside for an easy shot, and then stole the inbounds pass. Pierce scored and Kansas led 70-63 with 3:21 to play.
"I thought the steal was the play of the game," LaFrentz said. "What C.B. does is give us a little spark. He's a little ball of intensity out there."
Kelly Thames had 17 points for the Tigers.
"I felt like we had a chance to win the game," Woods said. "We can't dwell on it. We kept fighting. We just fell a little short today. The team took it real good."
LaFrentz had 10 rebounds to go with his 22 points, but missed his first six field goal attempts of the second half before he scored with 4:48 to play.
LaFrentz had missed the first game in Columbia with a broken finger on his right hand. This time, Missouri was playing without a key player - Albert White, who had 23 points in the first meeting, sat out after reinjuring his ankle Wednesday against Nebraska.
Kansas led 41-26 at the half and 45-26 after getting the first two baskets of the second half. But the 15-2 run got the Tigers back within 47-42 on a 3-pointer by Brian Grawer with 15:19 to play.
The Jayhawks led 64-54 but the Tigers were back to within 64-58 with about 5:20 to play on baskets by Jeff Hafer and Monte Harde.
It was 66-60 with 4:32 to play after two free throws by Grawer.
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