Missouri bench, newcomers wilt under pressure

The significance of Sunday's men's basketball game at Kansas weighed heavily on Missouri's youngest players in a 90-65 loss.
Sunday, March 1, 2009 | 3:53 p.m. CST; updated 7:46 p.m. CST, Sunday, March 1, 2009
Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson shows his frustration in the Tigers' 90-65 loss March 1 at rival Kansas.

LAWRENCE, Kan. — When he first came out of the locker room to warm up Sunday at Kansas, Missouri guard Zaire Taylor said he thought the atmosphere was "fun."

Taylor, who grew up in New York City, compared the 16,300 screaming fans in Allen Fieldhouse to some of the intense crowds he saw at street basketball events on outdoor playgrounds at Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Once the game started, Kansas used a 14-0 run to put Missouri behind early. The crowd erupted. Suddenly, the atmosphere wasn't fun anymore for Taylor. The Tigers lost 90-65.

"Before the game started, I thought, 'Man, this is the funnest place I've ever played,'" Taylor said. "Then the ball got tipped, and the score started to swing a little bit, I don't know if I was enjoying it as much."

According to a meter near the court, the noise level in the arena exceeded 100 decibels, which is equivalent to the sound of a gas lawn mower from three feet away. Long exposure to sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

Missouri's bench, which has scored as many as 62 points in a conference game this season, managed just six points Sunday. Missouri's seven newcomers, including Taylor, didn't score in the first half.

None of the Tigers' 19 first-half points came outside the paint. But they didn't shoot particularly well near the basket either, missing several layups. Missouri shot 20.5 percent in the first half.

"A lot of our guys had a lot of nerves, and you could tell," Tigers senior forward Leo Lyons said.

Coming into the game, Missouri had a chance to draw even with Kansas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference standings. Instead, the Tigers fell to 11-3 in conference play, two games behind first-place Kansas.

The significance of the game weighed on Missouri's young players.

"I think it (home court advantage) has a big effect psychologically, more than anything else," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.

When Missouri's starters missed shots early, it put more pressure on the young bench players to make shots and jump start a comeback. They didn't have it in them.

"Those guys come off the bench and we're down, for that to be the pressure on their shoulders to come out and make plays that's a hard thing to do when you're that young," Lyons said.

If there is one positive for the Tigers to take away from Sunday's game, it was that all of their players were healthy enough to play in it after the team's bus was involved in a traffic accident on Saturday.

Senior forward DeMarre Carroll said an accident occurred in front of the bus, and the bus driver swerved to avoid the accident. Carroll said the bus came close to sliding off the side of a bridge.

Carroll was dozing off in his seat when he heard his teammates screaming. After the ordeal ended, players applauded the bus driver for his skillful driving. No one on the bus was injured.

"He really did a good job," Carroll said.

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