Archive for Monday, March 10, 2003

Tigers couldn’t deliver knockout

March 10, 2003

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— Missouri had Kansas University right where the Tigers wanted the Jayhawks Sunday afternoon.

Unranked Mizzou led sixth-ranked KU, 74-71, with less than two minutes remaining at Hearnes Center, where the Tigers hadn't lost a game this season.

KU got off the ropes by sinking two desperation three-pointers in a 79-74 victory.

"When you're fighting a heavyweight champ, you can't let it go to a decision," MU coach Quin Snyder said. "You have to knock them out and take the element of chance away -- take away all the other aspects of the game that you don't have any control over. You have to put them on the canvas. We didn't do that."

The Tigers, however, didn't throw in the towel in their regular-season finale.

In a sloppy first half, MU (18-9 overall, 9-7 Big 12 Conference) made only nine of 35 field-goal attempts, including 2-of-15 shots from three-point range. MU also committed 11 of its 17 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

The 38-31 halftime deficit would have been worse if guard Rickey Paulding hadn't made all nine of his first-half free-throw attempts. MU was 11-for-11 on first-half free throws.

"In the first half we turned the ball over a little and didn't hit our shots," Paulding said. "In the second half, we really gutted it out and played hard."

Missouri trailed, 48-39, with 16:15 remaining after a basket by KU guard Keith Langford, but the Tigers cut the deficit to one point thanks to a 12-4 run capped by Ricky Clemons' three-pointer with 12:04 left.

After missing five of six three-pointers in the first half, Clemons made all four of his second-half treys. The Big 12's leading three-point shooter finished with 21 points.

"It was my confidence to shoot the ball and not think about bad shots," he said.

There were four ties and four lead changes down the stretch, but Missouri could not put the Jayhawks away.

It was KU's fifth straight victory over Missouri, and the third straight time that a close loss left the Tigers frustrated.

KU (24-6, 14-2) beat MU, 76-70, Feb. 3 at Allen Fieldhouse. In that game, Mizzou cut the deficit to one point three times in the second half, but could not get over the hump.

In last year's 95-92 KU victory at Hearnes, Clarence Gilbert missed a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds.

Paulding missed a similar chance Saturday.

Trailing 74-71, KU point guard Aaron Miles sank a tying, 23-foot three-pointer with the shot clock running out and 1:20 to play.

Paulding missed a two-pointer before KU guard Kirk Hinrich hit another three-pointer from 25 feet with the shot clock winding down and 23 seconds to play.

"They made big plays," said MU center Arthur Johnson, who scored 11 points. "It's frustrating. We played hard."

Missouri still had a chance, but after a timeout Paulding missed a three-pointer with 16 seconds left.

"We drew it up just like that for me to get an open look," Paulding said. "Like most of the balls I was shooting, it didn't go in."

Paulding -- who ranks eighth in the league in three-point shooting -- finished with 21 points, but was 5-for-20 from the field and missed all eight of this three-point shots.

"He had a clean look at the three," Snyder said. "I felt like he deserved to see that ball. I really thought he was going to make it."

Paulding didn't, and Langford sealed the victory with a pair of foul shots.

The Jayhawks celebrated their second straight Big 12 title on Norm Stewart Court. Some of the Tigers were irked, but Paulding took it in stride.

"If we were in their position, we probably would have celebrated on their court, too," he said.

But the Tigers aren't in KU's position.

Missouri started the season 10-1 and was ranked as high as 11th in the nation. Since then, MU went 8-8.

Mizzou will be the fifth seed in the Big 12 tournament and will face 12th-seeded Nebraska Thursday at Dallas.

"We're looking forward to the Big 12 tournament," Clemons said. "I think we have something to prove. This is the No. 1 seed. We had them beat at their place, and we had them beat at our place. We know we can play with the best teams in the country. We just have to finish games out."

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