Tigers settle jitters

Tuesday, November 11, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:46 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Playing an exhibition game against a foreign team presents some interesting situations.

You might not know what style your opponent plays. You’re not sure how you will match up against that style.

Even more, you might even not know against whom you’re playing. That was the case for coach Quin Snyder’s Missouri basketball team Monday night.

“We weren’t really sure who we were playing until they got here,” Snyder said.

It was the Inter Hoop All-Stars, a traveling team from Lithuania. After a slow start, the No. 5 Tigers dominated early in the second half for an 85-76 win at Hearnes Center.

The Missouri offense struggled with Inter Hoop’s matchup zone defense early, shooting 44 percent from the field and 20 percent on 3-pointers on its way to a 39-35 halftime lead. But it responded in the second half, opening with a 10-0 run.

Inter Hoop’s offense and defense were new to the Tigers, Snyder said.

“They ran six or seven different plays the first 10 times they came down the floor,” Snyder said. “We haven’t played a lot of zone (in practice), but we’ll probably get a lot of it this year. It’s a good thing for us to see it.”

Still, the Tigers’ lack of game-day experience against Inter Hoop’s style slowed their start.

“I think the zone knocked us back a little bit,” Snyder said. “We didn’t expect them to be driving and kicking (on offense) so we made some adjustments.”

A few adjustments were made before the game as well, with sophomore Jimmy McKinney starting at point guard after the team determined junior transfer guard Randy Pulley must sit out until his transfer is certified. McKinney said he didn’t expect to play the point so often and so soon.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But it’s coming; it’s coming. It’s just something I need to learn if I want to get to the next level and if I want to be successful with these guys.”

McKinney looked more than comfortable running the offense. He scored 12 points and had seven assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes. His solid ball distribution keyed the Tigers’ strong second half start.

Center Arthur Johnson dominated the smaller Inter Hoop players underneath the basket, leading all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting. He added 12 rebounds, for another double-double. He had 19 last season.

Still, Johnson said he thought the game could have gone better.

“We had some highs, and we had some lows,” he said. “But it was the first time together as a group out there, so we had a lot of nerves out there.”

Those nerves apparently disappeared in the second half for Johnson, who had seven points in the first seven minutes. As for the double-doubles, Johnson said Tiger fans should expect those to keep coming.

“That’s what I’m expecting of myself, so yeah, definitely,” he said.

Senior Rickey Paulding struggled from the field, going 6-for-15 but managing 15 points. Two of his dunks electrified the crowd of 6,207.

Paulding broke through the right side of the defense for a one-handed dunk during the second half 10-0 run. Later, McKinney bounced the ball softly off the glass to Paulding, who slammed it with two hands to extend the Missouri lead to 73-44.

Senior Josh Kroenke, who has seen many acrobatic spectacles from Paulding, said he was impressed.

“I kind of saw that coming,” he said. “I saw Jimmy scoop that ball up and his eyes kind of lit up a little bit. I’ve seen that in pickup but never in a regular game. It was a definite high of the night.”

Missouri led 83-59 with fewer than four minutes to play, but the Inter Hoop offense sprang to life late. A 17-2 run in the waning minutes was not enough to catch the Tigers. Erikas Kuciauskas and Rolandas Matulis led the All-Stars with 13 points.

On the whole, Snyder said he was content with the Tigers’ victory.

“It’s a decent first night out, but there’s a lot to work on,” Snyder said.

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