Team play is key as Tigers top Cornhuskers

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | 11:40 p.m. CST; updated 8:47 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Missouri's DeMarre Carroll takes a shot in front of Nebraska's Sek Henry in the second half on Wednesday night in Lincoln, Neb. Missouri beat Nebraska 86-78 in overtime.

COLUMBIA — A 9-0 run sparked Missouri to an overtime victory over Nebraska on Wednesday night at Nebraska.

With the game tied at 71 after regulation in Lincoln, the Tigers began overtime with the run and outscored the Cornhuskers 15-7 in the extra period to win 86-78. Missouri went on that run without forward DeMarre Carroll, who fouled out before overtime began.

“I thought it was a great team victory by our basketball team,” coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game. “I thought they had every chance to kind of fold the tent a little bit. We had a good lead at halftime and that just kind of evaporated a bit. But that’s going to take place when you are playing on the road.”

Missouri had a balanced scoring attack against Nebraska. Four players reached double-figures in scoring and two others had nine points.

“We’re just focusing more on playing as a team and trusting each other,” guard J.T. Tiller, who had 14 points, said after the game by phone. “That’s what’s going to get us our wins, and that’s what got us our win tonight. Just come together through all the adversity and just believing in each other.”

Guard Keon Lawrence led the Tigers with 19 points and sank all three of his 3-point attempts.

“He had a phenomenal first half and hit some big shots for us in the second half,” Anderson said of Lawrence’s performance.

Missouri had a good team shooting night as well, making 48 percent of its shots from the floor.

“When you shoot it well on the road, you’re going to have a chance,” Anderson said. “We hit some timely shots.”

The Tigers held a 41-30 lead at halftime, but Nebraska evened the score in the second half behind its big center, Aleks Maric. Maric had 32 points, and 24 of them came after intermission.

“Every time we play this guy here, he just has a stellar performance,” Anderson said of Maric. “I thought we did a very good job in the first half, but in the second half, I’ll tell you what, he was just a monster.”

Maric also had 16 rebounds, which was his best of the season.

“Maric, he just came out strong (in the second half),” Tiller said. “We just had to find a way pretty much. He’s a very tough player to guard. We knew he was going to come out in the second half and go strong.”

Maric did not score in overtime, though.

“Coach definitely said it starts from the guards,” Tiller said. “If the guards put pressure on their guards, they can’t get those easy passes and easy looks into the lane, into Maric.”

Free throws have been a problem for Missouri at times this season. Coming into Wednesday’s game the Tigers were shooting about 68 percent from the line. Against Nebraska they made 17-of-21 attempts from the foul line.

“If the team has all the faith in you, and is giving you positive feedback when you’re going to the line, you just know you’re going to make it,” Tiller said. “They give you that confidence and that trust, knowing that it’s going to go in, there’s really no pressure.”

The two teams played on Jan. 30 in Columbia. Missouri was shorthanded in that game because five players were suspended because of their involement in a fight outside of a Columbia night club. On Wednesday night, Missouri had four of the five suspended players back. Only guard Stefhon Hannah was not on the court after being dismissed from the team on Tuesday.

Missouri’s bench outscored Nebraska’s 34-6. The four players who were suspended for the teams’ first meeting and played in Wednesday’s game — Leo Lyons, Marshall Brown, Jason Horton and Darryl Butterfield — scored all 34 of those bench points.

“I think the strength of our team is our bench,” Anderson said. “So we’re able to bring in some guys that can come in and do some things.”

With the win, Missouri is now 14-11 (4-6 in Big 12 Conference play), and Nebraska is 14-8 (3-6).

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