Through the first 20 minutes against Gonzaga on Saturday, Missouri coach Quin Snyder had to be satisfied with his team’s defensive effort.
The Tigers held Ronny Turiaf, the Bulldogs’ top post threat, to only two points in the first half. Only one Gonzaga player had more than five points and Missouri was dominating the glass, grabbing 25 rebounds to Gonzaga’s 16. More importantly, the Tigers led 38-35 at halftime.
Then the second half started.
A 12-3 Gonzaga run quickly turned a 41-38 Missouri lead into a 50-44 deficit. Turiaf scored nine points during the run, including two momentum-changing dunks, on his way to a team-high 23.
Although a 10-2 Missouri run later in the half brought the Tigers back, Gonzaga’s perfection from the free-throw line in overtime ensured No. 10 Missouri’s first loss of the season.
The Bulldogs’ early second half run was the lift the team needed to record the upset.
“I think we had a little letdown at the beginning of the second half defensively,” said Snyder in a radio interview after the 87-80 overtime loss.
The Tigers must avoid similar lapses Sunday, when they meet UNC-Greensboro at 2 p.m. at Hearnes Center.
The Tigers have experienced defensive letdowns in each of their first four games. These lapses allowed their opponents to put together big runs at important times:
n A 7-0 run early in the second half of the season opener Nov. 29 at Oakland gave the Golden Grizzlies the lead for a short time.
n Coppin State made four 3-pointers during a 14-0 run to end the first half Dec. 2 at Hearnes Center to give the Eagles a 32-28 advantage.
n A 13-0 first half run by Indiana on Dec. 6 in Bloomington pushed the Hoosiers to a 23-8 lead less than eight minutes into the contest.
The Tigers overcame those rallies, but Gonzaga’s run was too much. The addition of guards Randy Pulley and Jason Conley, who will make their Missouri debuts against the Spartans, should aid the Tigers’ defensive consistency. Better depth means more rest for the Missouri starters and less chance of momentum-changing runs.
“We really executed our game plan on the defensive end,” Snyder said after the Gonzaga loss. “We just have to be a little bit better.”
PAULDING’S WOES CONTINUE: After shooting 8-for-29 against Gonzaga, Rickey Paulding’s field goal percentage dropped to 33 percent. Omitting a strong opening performance against Oakland, Paulding has shot 29 percent in his past three games.
Paulding shot 45 percent on his way to 17.4 points per game last season. His average has dropped to 14.8 this season.
Paulding has found a way to make the big shots for the Tigers, though. His drive and layup in the final minutes of the Tigers’ comeback win at Indiana was key, and a Paulding 3-pointer sent the Gonzaga game to overtime.
BLOCK PARTY: With one blocked shot against Gonzaga, senior Arthur Johnson moved into fourth on the Big 12 Conference blocks list. Saturday’s block was No. 203 for Johnson, who had been tied with former Nebraska forward Venson Hamilton.
Johnson’s next target is former Kansas center Eric Chenowith, who is third on the list with 242 blocks.