By JOHN JUETTNER
It appeared to be a carbon copy of what the MU men’s basketball team has done on the road all year long.
The host Colorado Buffaloes scored the first 11 points of the game. Slow starts have been common for MU when playing away from home.
“It’s like, ‘Where are we, man?’” MU coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game’s conclusion.
MU didn’t even make a field goal until guard Stefhon Hannah hit a runner in the lane with 11:03 remaining in the first half. The Tigers were 0-9 before Hannah’s shot dropped through the net.
But instead of not being able to overcome the early deficit, MU rallied from as many as 14 points down to beat Colorado 66-62 on Saturday afternoon. It was the Tigers’ first road win this season, and ended a seven-game road losing streak dating back to last season.
“It’s something we were trying to climb over and now we just got to stay consistent,” forward Leo Lyons said by phone after the game. “Try to go out and look forward to winning the next game too.”
MU trailed 34-24 at halftime, but it was able to generate a second-half surge behind the play of Lyons. The junior led the Tigers with 22 points, and 14 of those came in the second half. Four of those second-half points came on thunderous dunks that turned the momentum in MU’s favor.
“It wasn’t even just me, I was getting set up by a lot of my teammates, so I think it’s just more of us getting tired of losing,” Lyons said. “We’ve had a couple of close ones that we should have won, I think something just clicked in that second half. We just gave it all we have.”
Anderson said that Lyons played quality minutes on Saturday despite picking up two fouls in the first half. Lyons was able to stay out of foul trouble, only fouling once in the second half.
“I want our guys to take advantage of the advantages that we do have, and that’s the size and versatility that he has,” Anderson said of Lyons.
Colorado plays a much different style than MU does. The Tigers want to push the tempo of the game and speed opponents up. The Buffaloes would prefer to play half-court basketball, and slow the tempo down. Since Colorado uses the Princeto-style offense, which is based off back door cuts and back screens, the Buffaloes used almost the entire 35-second shot clock every time they had the ball.
MU was able to handle the slower pace better against Colorado than it had when other teams slowed the tempo down earlier this season.
“In most of our losses, it’s because teams have slowed us down,” Lyons said. “We’ve been working a lot on half court sets. On the half court we’re just try to find our advantages, and the advantage was down low. And after they started doubling that, we started making shots because we were kicking it (the ball) out.”
Senior guard Marcus Hall played the biggest part in leading Colorado to the early lead. He scored 20 of Colorado’s 34 points in the first half. In the second half, he was held to eight.
“He probably had a career in the first half,” Anderson said. “But in the second half we hammered down. It was a wear-and-tear game. You could see, fatigue crept in.”
Anderson didn’t just mean fatigue for Hall, but the whole Colorado team. Anderson pointed out that the Buffaloes had only five turnovers in the first half, but were forced into 11 turnovers in the second half.
The win was big for MU for a couple of reasons. First because of they way the team was able to battle back from a large deficit; second because a loss would have dropped the Tigers to 1-4 in Big 12 play. Instead, MU stands at 2-3 in the conference and 12-8 overall.
“What a gut check, with the way it took place,” Anderson said.