LAWRENCE, Kan. — The story was embellished over the years to almost mythic proportions, how former Missouri coach Norm Stewart so detested the state of Kansas that he would refuse to allow the bus driver to purchase gas on the wrong side of the state line.
In truth, Stewart had a grudging respect for the Kansas basketball program.
He was recruited by legendary coach Phog Allen to play for the Jayhawks in the early 1950s, though he ultimately chose to play for the Tigers. But he always loved visiting Kansas’ old Hoch Auditorium, and when he returned to coach his alma mater in 1967, nothing quite stoked the same level of passion as heading down I-70 for games at Allen Fieldhouse.
“Did I put a special meaning on it? Sure,” said Stewart, now 77, retired and living in Palm Springs, Calif. “They were always the best in the conference, it seemed, and if you could beat them, you figured you could beat everybody. It became a big game.”
There have certainly been some memorable Kansas-Missouri games over the 105-year history of the rivalry – the bench-clearing brawls of the early 1960s, top-5 showdowns of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the battle for conference supremacy that dominated headlines of the 1990s.
One more will be added to the annals today, when the third-ranked Tigers (25-3, 12-3) head to Allen Fieldhouse to face No. 4 Kansas (23-5, 13-2) in the perhaps the final regular-season match-up ever.
Missouri leaves for the SEC next season, and Kansas officials have no intention of playing the Tigers out of conference. So barring a tournament showdown of some sort, this will be the final time the Tigers and Jayhawks meet on the hardwood.
“We understand the rivalry. We understand there’s history,” added Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor. “But I think we have to understand the game more than the rivalry. The game is important for us. After the game, we can talk about the rivalry and how it ended.”
NO. 10 MARQUETTE 61, WEST VIRGINIA 60
In Morgantown, W.Va., Jae Crowder scored 26 points as Marquette (24-5, 13-3 Big East dealt a big blow to West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Mountaineers (17-12, 7-9) fell to 10th place in the conference.