COLUMBIA — What a time to make a first career start.
It wasn’t much, four minutes to start the first half and six more in the second, but seldom-used forward Vaidotas Volkus scored a career high eight points on an efficient four-for-five shooting on Missouri’s most anticipated day of the year: the Kansas game.
It’s just too bad it ended on a sour note. The Jayhawks won 70-76 Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
“I feel good. I’d like to start every time, but I feel bad because we lost,” Volkus said. “That’s it.”
The 6-foot-8 forward from Panevezys, Lithuania found out just before the game that he was replacing forward Leo Lyons in the starting lineup. Lyons, who has started every other game this season, struggled in Missouri’s most recent game, scoring only four points in 15 minutes in a loss Wednesday at Iowa State.
“I thought Volkus was going to give us some energy, I thought he was going to give us some physical-ness, and he did,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought Volkus did a good job.”
Volkus started each half and scored Missouri’s first basket of each half. His only missed shot of the game came when he tried to tip in DeMarre Carroll’s missed layup in the second half.
“V is the same night in and night out,” forward Marshall Brown said. “In practice, in a game, what you see is what you get. He goes in there and plays hard, tries to get every rebound and fights for us. He gives us that aggressiveness that we need.”
Beyond his eight points, Volkus also added two assists and a rebound. His previous career high in points was six, which he had done three times, including this year against Southern.
“You couldn’t ask more from V,” Brown said. “He came in and stepped up and he was ready when his number was called.”
Volkus transferred to Missouri from Redlands Community College in Oklahoma last year and averaged 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds in 6.9 minutes for the 2006-07 season.
Lyons came off the bench Saturday to score 10 points and grab five rebounds in 13 minutes. Anderson has used the bench to motivate Lyons at other times during the year, and it has usually worked. After sitting for most of Missouri’s 86-83 loss to Michigan State, Lyons came back the next game and scored 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the next game, a win against Maryland.
Although Volkus started, he didn’t play down the stretch of either half. Still, Anderson said he liked what he has been seeing in Volkus lately, and that he could see increased playing time.
“I thought Volkus did well,” Anderson said. “For the minutes he played he is going to get some more minutes.”
SELL OUT: There was an announced sellout crowd of 15,061, the first of the season, though a handful of seats remained vacant throughout the game.
The padded seats on the south side of the arena had the most open seats at tipoff, but most of them were claimed as the game progressed.
The student section was filled for the first time this season, with most students in place an hour before tipoff.
HOME STREAK SNAPPED: The loss ended Missouri’s 13-game home winning streak, which dated back to a Feb. 14 win against Baylor last season. Missouri had won all 10 home games this season by double-digits.
RUSH RUSHED: Brandon Rush, the brother of former Missouri star Kareem Rush, struggled offensively, making just two of 14 shots.