Archive for Sunday, March 16, 2003

Tigers tired? Hardly

March 16, 2003

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— Missouri was supposed to be running on fumes Saturday, but the needle on the Tigers' tank wasn't even close to empty.

"With an opportunity like this, we don't have time to think about being tired," MU's Arthur Johnson said following Mizzou's surprising 68-63 victory over Kansas University in the semifinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament at the American Airlines Center.

Saturday's game was the fifth-seeded Tigers' third in three days, and they'll have to come back for one more today to capture the tourney championship.

"Four games in four days ... I think our guys knew that," said Rickey Paulding, who made five of eight three-point shots on the way to a game-high 21 points. "We'll be prepared to play tomorrow."

Missouri didn't appear prepared to play the Jayhawks, however. The Tigers committed 12 fouls, nine turnovers and were outrebounded 20-15 to fall into a 34-26 halftime hole.

"The first half was chaotic with all the turnovers and missed shots and foul trouble," MU coach Quin Snyder said, "but we refused to give in to any of that. We stuck with our game plan, which was to get it inside."

Missouri outscored the Jayhawks, 42-29, in the second half. Snyder called it "our best half of the six halves" in the tournament.

Johnson and Travon Bryant, MU's double-postmen, combined for 30 points and 14 rebounds. The pair also combined to block five Kansas shots.

Bryant, a 6-foot-9 junior, had 18 points and seven boards. He had posted 13 points and six rebounds Sunday in Columbia, Mo., when KU edged the Tigers, 79-74, to claim the Big 12 regular-season championship outright.

"Emotion is the key for Travon," Snyder said. "The more he feels it, the better he plays. Every time the ball went in to him, I was telling him to throw it back out, and he threw it in the basket instead."

Bryant wasn't the only emotional MU player. All the Tigers were pumped to avenge Sunday's loss to the Jayhawks, their only defeat in the Hearnes Center all season.

"It was kind of like a storybook," Johnson said. "We just had to play hard, and we knew we'd run into (Kansas) again, and we did."

Added Snyder: "The freshness of that last loss I'm sure our guys felt."

Snyder supplied some early emotion himself when, with less than five minutes expired, he stepped onto the court while the clock was running to yell at official Kerry Sitton, who quickly rang him up for a technical foul. Snyder was miffed about a foul call against Johnson at the other end.

"This team sometimes needs to see me emotional," Snyder said. "There are times when that helps us out, but I don't know if it had any impact on the game."

In fact, Kansas went on an 8-0 run following the technical foul to grab an 11-4 lead. Missouri didn't really make a run until midway through the second half after KU's Kirk Hinrich had to go to the bench with four fouls.

"Kansas is a great team," Paulding said. "They made us play hard, but we got a big win."

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