MU men's basketball team nets needed win

Sunday, February 24, 2008 | 1:05 a.m. CST; updated 8:50 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Missouri defenders Keon Lawrence, left, and Vaidotas Volkas trap Colorado forward Marcus King-Stockton.

COLUMBIA — Jason Horton drove to his left, neared the lane and tossed up a running jump shot. There were only about 30 seconds left when the ball dropped through the hoop.

That jumper gave the Missouri men’s basketball team a 56-50 lead over Colorado Saturday, and all but assured the Tigers a victory. The final score was 60-53.

You figure a game that was decided in the final 30 seconds would be exciting. But Saturday’s game at Mizzou Arena didn’t feel like a closely contested game until about two minutes to play. Before that it felt more like a badminton match or a golf tournament.

As hard as the band played, and as much as the cheerleaders urged, the crowd of 10,686 didn’t respond until late. The fans in the student section seemed more interested in what was going on at Harpo’s than on Norm Stewart Court.

When Missouri would make a slight run, the became interested. But for the most part you could hear more shoe squeaks on the wood floor than cheers from fans’ mouths.

During halftime, news that Kansas was upset 61-60 earlier in the day drew a louder response than anything on the court.

The lack of crowd noise is even more surprising considering that Saturday’s game was important for Missouri in determining its standing in the Big 12 Conference. The win put the Tigers Big 2 Conference record at 5-7, which is only a game out of fourth place. A loss would have put the Tigers a game out of last place.

Guard Keon Lawrence said he wasn’t aware of the standings situation until coach Matt Zimmerman wrote it on a white board in the locker room.

“We tried not to think about that, because it’s crazy how everybody is up and down in the Big 12,” Lawrence said. “It seems like we’re out but we’re still right there where we need to be.”

Guard Matt Lawrence said the team understands the situation, but knows it still must continue to improve its play.

“We look into that kind of thing, but at the same time we’re still trying to get better as a basketball team,” Matt Lawrence said. “I think this is a good five game stretch here. Three at home, two on the road, I think they’re all winnable games. Hopefully we will start playing our best basketball and that kind of stuff just takes care of itself. If we continue to improve, good things will happen for us.”

Colorado’s 53 points were partly due to its philosophy to slow the game down, and partly due to Missouri’s defense.

“I thought in the first half our defense was good, I thought in the second half our defense could have been a whole lot better,” coach Mike Anderson said. “We did a great job in the first half of either taking charges or making them kick it out, where guys will contest the shots. I thought we disrupted what they wanted to do in the first half. We need to get more consistent from half to half.”

In addition to good defense, Missouri committed only four turnovers Saturday. The Buffaloes had 14 turnovers.

“I thought that’s probably a big reason we win,” Anderson said. “We took care of the basketball.

In the Tigers’ committed 24 turnovers in their last game, against Kansas State.

“I think it’s huge, especially coming after a game at Kansas State when we had 20-plus turnovers in a game,” Matt Lawrence said. “To come back home and take care of the ball like we did, I think it was conducive to winning basketball.”

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