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Updated: Sunday, March 9, 2003 6:01 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(6) Kansas 79, Missouri 74
KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Kansas Jayhawks
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MISSOURI TIGERS
Missouri Tigers
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COLUMBIA, Missouri (Ticker) -- In a conference full of great players, Kirk Hinrich staked his claim as one of the best in the Big 12.

Hinrich drilled a go-ahead 25-footer with 23 seconds left as No. 6 Kansas earned the outright Big 12 title with a 79-74 victory over Missouri, which suffered its first home loss.

Kansas (24-6, 14-2 Big 12) finished one game ahead of Texas for its ninth conference title in the last 15 seasons. The Jayhawks closed the regular season with four straight victories.

Texas' T.J. Ford, Oklahoma's Hollis Price and Hinrich's teammate, Nick Collison, have received plenty of consideration for Big 12 Player of the Year. But Hinrich also is a candidate with his 17.8 scoring average, and he demonstrated it with his clutch shot.

The game was tied at 74-74 when Collison threw up an airball from the baseline with 26 seconds to go. Kansas' Michael Lee hustled down the rebound and dribbled out before finding Hinrich on the perimeter.

There was no hesitation from Hinrich as he buried his long jumper to give Kansas the lead. Hinrich and Collison each finished with 20 points.

Missouri (18-9, 9-7) rushed the ball forward and Rickey Paulding misfired on a 3-pointer. Collison got the rebound and Jayhawks point guard Aaron Miles was fouled with eight seconds left. Miles missed his 1-and-1 opportunity, but the rebound was knocked around and Kansas was able to run out the clock.

Miles helped set up Hinrich's game-winner with a long 3-pointer that beat the shot clock with 1:20 remaining, forging a 74-74 tie. Missouri guard Ricky Clemons was all over him, but Miles, an 18 percent shooter from beyond the arc, nailed his only 3-pointer of the game.

The Jayhawks placed five players in double figures as Keith Langford scored 12 points, Lee added 11 and Miles 10. Collison grabbed 10 rebounds as Kansas held a 44-36 edge on the glass.

Hinrich made three 3-pointers as Kansas made 6-of-14 from the arc. Miles came up with four of the Jayhawks' seven steals.

The game was a sloppy affair from the start, with Kansas committing 19 of the contest's 36 turnovers. There were 23 turnovers in the first half.

Clemons and Paulding each scored 21 points to lead Missouri, which finished in a tie for fifth place in the conference. It is the highest finish in coach Quin Snyder's four seasons. The Tigers are the fifth seed in the Big 12 tournament and face last-place Nebraska on Thursday.

Kansas controlled most of the first half, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and leading by as many as eight points before taking a 38-31 advantage into the locker room. A basket by Jeff Graves opened the scoring in the second half for the Jayhawks, establishing their largest lead.

A 3-pointer by Clemons capped a 13-4 tear by the Tigers that cut the deficit to 52-51 with just over 12 minutes left. Freshman Jimmy McKinney's three-point play at the 9:20 mark gave Missouri its first lead, 57-56.

Neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way. Clemons drilled a 3-pointer for a 70-69 edge with less than four minutes remaining. Arthur Johnson scored on a finger roll and Paulding made two free throws around a jumper by Collison, leaving the Tigers ahead, 74-71.

Missouri failed to overcome 26 percent (9-of-35) shooting in the first half despite heating up to click at 57 percent (17-of-30) the rest of the way. Paulding missed all eight 3-point attempts as the Tigers shot 28 percent (7-of-25) from beyond the arc.


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