ROCHESTER, Mich. –- Missouri’s power forwards turned in a powerful performance.
Solid play at the position from freshman Linas Kleiza and senior Travon Bryant helped the Tigers to a 90-85 win against Oakland University on Saturday.
Kleiza, who played parts of the final 9:37 despite having four fouls, had a double-double. Bryant had a perfect night shooting (3-of-3) and made several key defensive plays down the stretch for the No. 5 Tigers (1-0). They combined for 17 points and 20 rebounds.
In the first half, Kleiza’s unrelenting pressure helped the Tigers build their lead. After missing his first three shots, Kleiza made an ugly running layup with 10:36 to give the Tigers an 18-14 lead.
Later in the half, Kleiza scored on consecutive possessions. His basket with 6:28 gave the Tigers a 30-24 lead. The next time down the court, Kleiza’s made a 3-pointer, which stretched the lead to seven.
In seven minutes, he had seven points and six rebounds in the first half. He finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, which led the team.
“I just went out and played hard,” Kleiza said. “I need to give my team energy, play off Rickey (Paulding) and (Arthur Johnson). So that’s what happened.”
Had foul trouble not plagued Kleiza in the second half, his numbers could have been better. With 9:37 left, Kleiza pushed Cortney Scott in the back while in the low post. The foul was Kleiza’s fourth, but he returned, grabbing two more rebounds.
Kleiza’s only points in the second half were big ones because they slowed Oakland’s initial surge. With the game tied at 48, Kleiza put back a missed 3-pointer then completed a 3-point play.
“(Kleiza’s) so aggressive he just needs to be smart,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “He made the most of the minutes he was in there.”
Kleiza also assisted on Johnson baskets on consecutive possessions with less than five minutes.
Kleiza collected a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) in the Tigers’ final exhibition game Nov. 18 as well.
Bryant contributed equally strong play in his 24 minutes.
He capped a 9-2 run to open the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Bryant scored the Tigers’ next field goal, a put-back that halted a Grizzles’ 6-0 burst.
“Travon did a great job defensively down the stretch,” Snyder said. “As the game got on, Travon got more emotional and competed more, and that’s when he plays his best ball.”
Leading 83-81 with 1:39 left and the shot clock running out, Bryant blocked a shot by Shawn Hopes out of bounds. With four seconds left to shoot, the Grizzles failed to score.
More than a minute later, after a Johnson missed free throw, Bryant’s back tap allowed Jimmy McKinney to run more time off the clock.