A statistic that won’t show up in too many box scores but will make Missouri coach Quin Snyder smile reads: Travon Bryant, two 5-second violations forced.
It was that type of effort and energy that propelled Bryant and the Tigers to a 76-56 win against Iowa on Saturday at Hearnes Center. The win stops the Tigers’ three-game losing streak, a stretch filled with inconsistent efforts.
“You find out you’re an average team if you don’t play with that (passion and emotion),” Bryant said. “We really wanted to see everybody out there succeed. ”
Bryant’s first forced violation came when he trapped Iowa center Jared Reiner near the Iowa bench with 2:27 left in the first half. The other came when Bryant prevented Iowa forward Glen Worley from passing with 10:34 left in the game.
“(Saturday) was about the character of this team,” Snyder said. “Now that challenge is, ‘Let’s duplicate it. Can we do it again?’”
Bryant also had 14 points and nine rebounds. Freshman forward Linas Kleiza led the team in scoring for the second straight game, tying a career-high 18 points.
With the No. 23 Tigers’ (5-4) needing a strong performance after an embarrassing effort against Belmont on Tuesday, Snyder said his team “played to exhaustion” against Iowa.
That was the focus of two-a-day practices this week. It called for players to give maximum effort for as long as possible before being replaced.
The Tigers forced Iowa into 15 turnovers and held it to 36 percent shooting. Iowa also made only 2-of-11 from behind the 3-point line.
“The intensity we played with is what’s got to be there all the time,” Snyder said. “The passion was there, and that’s good to see.”
Several other statistics showed the Tigers’ effort. They blocked a season-high nine shots, four coming from Bryant. They had a plus-7 rebound margin, including 17 offensive. They caused eight jump balls.
“(Missouri) came at us like they knew that had to get (a win),” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “This team’s full of talent, and (Saturday) I thought they played very hard.”
The consistent hustling resulted in many trips to the foul line. The Tigers had season highs with 37 attempts and 27 made. Senior guard Rickey Paulding made 7-of-8 to lead the team. Paulding, though, did not score a field goal for the first time since the Tigers’ 91-68 loss at Texas Tech on Feb. 20, 2002.
The Tigers benefited from the 49 fouls called. Iowa, though, especially its big men, struggled to convert free throws. Reiner missed 5-of-7 and forward Greg Brunner missed 4-of-5. The Hawkeyes made 18-of-31 attempts.
Lack of 3-point shooting also hurt the Hawkeyes. The Tigers made nine, including 5-of-8 in the second half, while the Hawkeyes missed 9-of-11.
Guard Pierre Pierce led Iowa with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Despite shooting only 31 percent in the first half, the Tigers shut down Iowa (7-3) in the second half and took control of the game.
A 15-2 run in close to a 6-minute span of the second half allowed the Tigers to build their biggest lead of the season, 20 points. The run began with 16:50 left. Junior guard Jason Conley’s free throw gave the Tigers a 55-35 lead with 11:22 left.
The lead increased to 22 on two occastions after that. Previously, the Tigers largest lead this season was 15 points against UNC-Greensboro on Dec. 21.
As the Tigers increased their lead, Iowa’s offense went cold. Iowa failed to score a field goal for 5:21 and committed five turnovers.
“(Saturday) we put it together and played with energy for the whole game,” senior center Arthur Johnson said.
The Tigers threatened to run away with the game in the first half on the strength of three straight 3-pointers in 1:12. Senior forward Josh Kroenke hit a 3-pointer on a feed from Conley. On the next possession, sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney, who finished with 10 points, made one from the top of the key, and Kroenke followed with another in transition.
The 9-point burst gave the Tigers a 22-11 lead with 10:09 left. Iowa also went without a field goal for 6:22 in the half.
The effort and energy used on the run and in the victory provided glimpses of the team many thought the Tigers could be.
“We’re definitely back on the right track,” Kroenke said.