Courtesy: KU Athletics
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Who would have thought that an exhibition basketball game between two former rivals could raise so much money? Sure Kansas defeated Missouri, 93-87, Sunday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 18,951 in Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, but raising in excess of $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims is what took center stage.
The Showdown for Relief came to fruition on Oct. 13 as an opportunity to raise funds for hurricane relief efforts that have occurred recently in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The game sold out within two days and public tickets were never available.
At halftime a check was presented for $1.75 million which combined tickets sold, a pay-per-view webcast and a text donation contest between the two schools. Officials expected the total contribution to be in excess of the check written when all is said and done.
Money raised from the game will be contributed to the organizations that the five living former U.S. Presidents have come together to support: the Houston Harvey Relief Fund, the Rebuild Texas Fund, the Florida Disaster Fund, Juntos y Unidos Por Puerto Rico and the Fund for the U.S. Virgin Islands. When the game sold out, it was put on a pay-per-view webcast. In the second half it was announced more than 18,000 had subscribed raising $724,480 which went toward the $1.75 million-plus for relief efforts.
“Kudos to both administrations and fan bases for doing something so special,” KU head coach Bill Self said. “That was two teams just going out there and saying let’s throw it up and play. I admit, I had butterflies. I was excited to be out there.”
On the floor the old conference rivals did not upset the capacity crowd in the first KU-MU battle since 2012. Kansas built an eight-point lead, 27-19, midway through the first half behind five 3-pointers from senior Devonte’ Graham.
“You can tell how much juice there was in the building,” Graham said in the postgame press conference of the crowd that was split 50-50 in tickets allotted. “It was a great atmosphere to play in.”
Graham ended the contest with 25 points and 10 rebounds, all defensive. He was one of five Jayhawks in double figures for the game along with sophomore guard Malik Newman with 17 points, sophomore center Udoka Azubuike with 16, junior guard Lagerald Vick with 13 and freshman forward Billy Preston with 12.
Missouri did not back down and went on an 11-2 run to take a 30-29 lead with 7:43 left before halftime. MU would later build a five-point advantage with just over four minutes prior to intermission and take a 44-40 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, with the game tied at 59 with just over 13 minutes remaining, Kansas took over, going on a 20-7 run over the next seven minutes and built its largest lead of the contest at 83-66.
Azubuike had 11 points and four blocked shots in the second stanza, while Newman had 13 of his 17 points after intermission.
“I just went out there and tried to post up and do the best things I could to help my team win,” Azubuike said of his second half performance.
During media timeouts of the contest, student-athletes from both schools who had been affected by the hurricanes were featured, thanking the patrons for their support of the game and the cause.
Fans can donate to the hurricane relief funds via the web.
How to donate:
Houston Harvey Relief Fund | www.ghcf.org/hurricane-relief
Florida Disaster Fund | www.volunteerflorida.org/donatefdf
Rebuild Texas Fund | www.rebuildtx.org
Juntos y Unidos Por Puerto Rico | www.unidosporpuertorico.com
Fund for the U.S. Virgin Islands | www.cfvi.net