Missouri-Kansas: Young MU Guards Crumble to Pressure of Allen Fieldhouse

Robert GivensContributor IJanuary 26, 2010

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 25:  Zaire Taylor #11 of the Missouri Tigers wrestles for a loose ball with Cole Aldrich #45 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the game on January 25, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I don't know how you could confuse him.

He's big. Like 6'11", 245 pounds big. He's whiter than the steeple of Jesse Hall. He's even missing one of his front teeth, for crying out loud.

But Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, the Missouri Tigers must have mistaken center Cole Aldrich for one of KU's perimeter players.

Instead of attacking the rim and attempting to get the big man in foul trouble, MU hoisted ill-advised shot after ill-advised shot from outside the paint.

Many of these shots came off one pass or a few dribbles, rarely challenging Aldrich and instead allowing him to camp underneath the basket and collect 14 of his game-high 16 rebounds on the defensive end.

When they didn't treat the ball like a time bomb, MU guards decided to gradually work the ball into the post to their undersized forwards instead of testing Aldrich by slashing into the lane to beat him with their speed or passing abilities.

This only resulted in seven swats for the junior from Bloomington, Minnesota, many of which came in convincing fashion.

For example, with 15 minutes left in the game, MU forward Keith Ramsey attempted a shot fake on Aldrich. He stayed on the ground and proceeded to punish Ramsey's shot out to the three-point arc, sending Ramsey flailing across the baseline like a tumbleweed across I-70 that cuts through the Sunflower State.

I would like to think coach Mike Anderson had a better offensive gameplan coming into this border war, and I do believe he did.

But a different coach may be to blame for MU's underprepared and straight-up nervous approach to Monday's game: Forrest Clare Allen, the namesake for KU's legendary basketball venue. Allen Fieldhouse was nothing short of electric Monday night as the crowd spurred their Jayhawks to their 54th straight victory at home.

(Unfortunately, I had to work Monday night. When it came time for tip, I asked my manager to try to find another radio station carrying the game because the current one had too much interference. Upon closer listening, it wasn't static. It was 16,300 crazed Kansans making the voice of Mike Kelley damn near inaudible.)

The hostile atmosphere unnerved the MU guards to abysmal 10-of-40, or 25 percent, shooting in the first half. After being tied 12-12 with 13:40 left to play in the first half, KU used a 14-3 run over the next five minutes to build a comfortable 11-point lead.

This is when the effects of Allen Fieldhouse were most detrimental to the Tigers. MU guards abandoned whatever visible gameplan they had to start the game and instead went searching for a 20-point shot that never fell. Kimmie English did his best to find that miracle shot though, as he continued his Big 12 shooting slump on 3-of-13 shooting. 

If I were to continue finishing this article the way MU played for the last eight minutes or so of the first half, it would come out like this: asdf094hyrng ;lkafa3iwoefn ,asd;vl,. a,dsvmlkdfmb. No cohesion. No direction. No orientation. And viewing it is uncomfortable to the eyes.

The turnover statistic further testifies to just how out of sync MU was offensively. They had two first half turnovers and finished with only five. The low number illustrates the lack of risk-taking or inventiveness displayed by MU Monday. If they counted as official turnovers, the amount of quick, ill-advised shots would've pushed the Tiger turnovers somewhere near the 23 the KU committed.

While MU did their best to beat themselves, KU did what they needed to do to win the game: sit back, not force, and let MU play right into their hands. The plethora of missed shots gave the Jayhawks ample opportunity for rebounds and quick transitions, and they took advantage of this.

KU's 38 defensive rebounds disallowed any second chance shots and gave them numerous fast break opportunities. The seasoned backcourt of Brady Morningstar and Sherron Collins did not squander these breaks, seemingly always setting up KU for a high percentage shot. The Jayhawks doubled up the Tigers on the boards, 56-28.

When these two rivals meet again March 6 in Columbia, the Tigers simply must show more poise and have an all-around team effort to take down mighty KU. If not, Aldrich will be wiping more than his sweat, which he did Monday night after diving for a loose ball, off the floor of Mizzou Arena.