Tigers find a way to win

Saturday, December 13, 2008 | 9:41 p.m. CST; updated 10:15 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Zaire Taylor and Isacc Miles scramble for a loose ball during the second half of Missouri's 75-64 win over Murray State at Mizzou Arena on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Missouri did a few things it hasn't done very often under coach Mike Anderson against Murray State on Saturday.

The Tigers won a close game. And they won a game in which they played poorly.

Murray State had more points off turnovers, more points in the paint, more second chance points and more fastbreak points than Missouri. But in the end, the Tigers had more points on the scoreboard, and they won 75-64.

Murray State cut a 17-point Missouri lead down to four with 4:19 to play. From there, Missouri turned over the ball five times but still found a way to win.

"They told me, 'Coach, we're going to be OK,' even though they were throwing the ball everywhere," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "That's what good teams do. You don't play some of your best basketball, but you find a way to win a game."

It was the Tigers' defensive pressure that won the game. After cutting the lead to four, Murray State turned over the ball on its next three possessions. The Racers scored just four more points in the game.

Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said Missouri's pressure stifled his team's offense at the end of the game.

"We lost to a good team who pressures you for 40 minutes, and you can't turn the ball over against them, and we turned the ball over," Kennedy said. "They made the plays they needed to make down the stretch."

The defining play came with 2:23 left when Zaire Taylor stole an inbounds pass and laid the ball in despite being fouled. He made the free throw to put Missouri up nine and the game out of reach.

"(Making that play) felt good. The adrenaline started pumping, and then we just continued making more plays," Taylor said. "It was just a good feeling, knowing that we got the stop that we needed."

It was the type of game that Missouri would have lost the past two seasons. At Missouri, Anderson is 3-15 in games decided by five points or less, and as Missouri's large lead dwindled, it seemed as if the game was going to feature yet another Tiger collapse.

Then the defense took over.

"Towards the end, we got some key stops, and that's what good teams try to do," senior forward DeMarre Carroll said.

Carroll and fellow senior Leo Lyons had off nights scoring and combined for 10 turnovers, but they were part of the unit that locked Murray State down defensively in the final moments. Lyons had two steals in the final minutes, as did Taylor.

Looks of frustration and exasperation were clear on the Racers' faces as they failed again and again to break Missouri's pressure.

Anderson was impressed with his team's resilience despite not playing its best game. With classes finishing up and six days off after an emotional win over California, Missouri easily could have let down against the Racers.

"For our guys to find a way, I think that tells you a little bit more about our basketball team," Anderson said. "Last year I don't know if we could have done that with all the things going on."

In conference, Missouri would struggle to win a game in which it commits 19 turnovers. Carroll said the Tigers will make adjustments before conference play.

"I think a lot of them were unforced turnovers," Carroll said. "That's just something we've got to learn from. It's good that we learn now than later in the season."

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