Missouri won its first Big 12 Conference road game Wednesday night at Oklahoma State, but the Tigers sure made it difficult on themselves.
The MU men's basketball team led by as many as 20 points in the second half, but barely held on for a 97-95 win. The Tigers didn't make a basket in the final four minutes of the game. The Cowboys finished on a 19-6 run.
"We were in position to finish it out and then, boy, things just kind of went kind of crazy," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game. "We didn't finish the way we want to finish, but you've got to give hats Oklahoma State, they did not go away."
Nolan Richardson, for whom Anderson spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at Arkansas, was in attendance at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. The two coached the Razorbacks to three Final Fours and a national championship together.
Richardson had to be happy with the performance by his understudy's team for most of the game. But Richardson spent the final minutes standing and yelling at the Missouri players from the stands.
Missouri has struggled shooting foul shots all season, and it was more of the same on Wednesday. The Tigers shot 17-for-30 from the foul line. They also turned over the ball 16 times.
"I had a heart attack," senior guard Matt Lawrence said in a phone interview regarding the comeback by Oklahoma State. "Oklahoma State is a great team. You knew they would never go away. They didn't give up."
Missouri built its large lead by capitalizing on its strengths. The Tigers came into the game first in the nation in assists per game and third in steals per game. Missouri had 20 assists and 12 steals against Oklahoma State, both above the Tigers' season average.
Senior forward DeMarre Carroll led the way for Missouri in the first half with 14 points. Carroll was in foul trouble in the second half, and Lawrence stepped up. Lawrence scored 19 points in the game, making five of eight three-point attempts and showing he has adjusted to his new role coming off the bench.
"Look at Matt Lawrence. His stat line is unbelievable," Anderson said.
Many of the fans exited the arena before the Cowboys made their run. But those that remained had an impact on the game.
"Their crowd did not let them go away," Anderson said. "We had some turnovers going down the stretch, missed some free throws and that's basketball for you."
The key play during Missouri's collapse was an intentional foul committed by Missouri freshman Marcus Denmon. Oklahoma State ended up scoring six points on the play to pull within three.
The Tigers looked panicked in the final moments, throwing errant passes all over the court.
Lawrence said his team can learn something from competing in a pressure situation.
"In the future, we just need to take our time out there and not be nervous," Lawrence said.
It might not have been pretty, but Anderson is happy to get a road win however his team can.
"I'm just glad we had the fortitude to finish it out and get the win," Anderson said.