Archive for Monday, December 24, 2007

Missouri looks to rebound before Big 12 season arrives

December 24, 2007

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— There's no disputing Mike Anderson's post-game assessment that the annual Missouri-Illinois game is not the biggest game on the Tigers' schedule.

The Big 12 conference schedule hasn't begun yet, and no game is bigger than their other border state rivalry with Kansas. Both good points.

"One game does not make a season," Anderson said after the excruciating 59-58 loss on Saturday night. "We've got a lot of basketball left. You don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for yourself, we just came up a little short."

Still, for a school trying to re-establish itself after the scandal-filled Quin Snyder era, in many ways beating themselves while losing for the eighth straight year in the Braggin' Rights series had to be especially painful.

"We have some guys in there with some tears," Anderson said. "It's kind of like you've got it in your hands."

Anderson is 0-2 against Illinois; both of the losses ulcer-inducing. Keon Lawrence slipped, lost control and dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds in the Illinois end as time expired in Saturday night's 59-58 loss. Last year's game had an eerily similar finish at almost the same spot of the court as Stefhon Hannah fumbled the ball before he could get off a three-point attempt with two seconds to go in a 73-70 loss.

Hannah, who scored a season-low eight points, recalled the pall last year's loss cast on the Tigers' season. Missouri lost its first four Big 12 games, finished 18-12 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight time.

"We just can't let this game affect us like it affected us last year," Hannah said. "Once we lost this game, it seems like every other close game, we didn't close it like we wanted to."

Missouri (8-4) didn't score after DeMarre Carroll hit the second of two free throws for a 58-56 lead with 2:56 to go.

A summary of the missed opportunities: J.T. Tiller was whistled for traveling, the interior defense allowed three close-in shots before Shaun Pruitt's go-ahead putback with 35 seconds to go, Hannah had his shot blocked on the drive, Darryl Butterfield fumbled an entry pass from Hannah on what might have been a layup with 9.7 seconds to go for a turnover, and, finally, Keon Lawrence watched helplessly as the ball rolled out of bounds and triggered the latest celebration for Illinois (7-4).

"We wanted to win bad," Hannah said. "The streak, we wanted to end it right now. But it didn't happen, so now we have to move on."

Missouri has three nonconference games remaining, starting with Coppin State at home on Thursday, to get over the loss before starting Big 12 play at home against Texas on Jan. 12.

"By conference, we're going to pick up some big wins," Carroll said. "I think Mizzou basketball is headed in the right direction as long as (Anderson's) the head of it."

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