Br'er Tiger vs. Br'er Jayhawk without Winfield, How Can Stewart Outwit Williams in Ku Briar Patch?

Article excerpt

A month ago, the Kansas Jayhawks scurried Missouri dizzy and out-desired the Tigers for rebounds.

This, on Mizzou's cozy home court, with the superlative Julian Winfield healthy.

What chaos, then, might top-ranked Kansas wreak at 2:45 p.m. today, when the 14th-ranked Tigers visit stifling, antagonistic Allen Fieldhouse . . . with Winfield unlikely to play . . . against a Jayhawks team that lost at Oklahoma on Monday?

"They're getting us at the worst time for us and the best for them," Mizzou coach Norm Stewart said. "We don't have much right now."

This situation, of course, has all the earmarks of the wily Stewart's Br'er Rabbit schtick: "Don't throw me in the briar patch, Br'er Fox." Upon which Br'er Fox heaved a snickering Br'er Rabbit in the briar patch - right where he wanted to be.

"He didn't win all those games," Kansas coach Roy Williams said, "by using mirrors."

But even if Stewart's ploy of choice is poormouthing, it's a challenge to see how he can outwit Williams and the Jayhawks this time. Although he has forged a career of competing - and winning - under duress, Kansas (20-4 overall, 9-3 Big Eight Conference) has the fervor and demeanor of a Final Four-type team.

The Jayhawks' frightening arsenal includes: a defense second in the nation in field-goal percentage (37.7 percent); point guard Jacque Vaughn, among the nation's best; the Big Eight's career-leading shot blocker, Greg Ostertag; a leading candidate for conference freshman of the year, forward Raef LaFrentz; a leading candidate for conference newcomer of the year, guard Jerod Haase; and a versatile and deep bench.

And the Tigers (18-5, 7-4), though exceeding any realistic expectations for this season, seem snagged in a slump. Including a sloppy loss to Nebraska on Wednesday night, they have lost successive games for the first time in two seasons. Winfield probably is out with a strained thigh muscle, leaving MU with eight healthy scholarship players.

Mizzou's Sammie Haley, though, has no doubts.

"I think we play better against adversity - always," said Haley, who had career highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds against the 'Huskers. …

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