AMES, Iowa. – Missouri senior Rickey Paulding’s turnover struggles continued to plague him Wednesday night against Iowa State. His most costly fumble yet helped the Cyclones to their first win in Big 12 Conference play.
Once again, the Tigers fought an early deficit but fell short during the game’s final seconds, and the Cyclones won 70-65 at Hilton Coliseum.
The Tigers trailed by one, 66-65, when the Cyclones’ guard Will Blalock stripped Paulding at half court and with 22 seconds left. The Cyclones’ Jake Sullivan charged down the court, but Jimmy McKinney stopped his fast-break attempt, earning his fourth foul.
Sullivan sunk both of his free throws, giving the Cyclones’ (8-2, 1-0 Big 12) a 68-65 lead.
The Tigers couldn’t regroup.
“It’s one of those plays you wish you could have back,” Paulding said. “You’re going to think about it until the next time you’re on the court.”
Missouri (5-5, 0-1) committed 15 turnovers. Nine of those errors came in the first half.
Missouri coach Quin Snyder said his team’s struggles started before the game’s final seconds.
“This game wasn’t lost at the seven-minute mark,” he said. “It was lost in the first half.”
Less than 10 minutes into the game, the teams were tied at 15 when three Missouri turnovers and defensive breakdowns sparked an 18-6 run. Missouri’s only points during that span were two McKinney 3-pointers.
Hindered by Iowa State’s zone defense, the Tigers struggled to find any momentum.
Missouri forward Travon Bryant said the zone defense should not have surprised his team; they practice against it all the time. Unable to create opportunities, the Tigers’ energy plummeted.
“We’ve just got to be more aggressive against it,” Bryant said. “We can’t just sit there; we’ve got to attack it like we would a man offense. Until we get that in our head, we’re going to continue to struggle against it.”
“We wanted to pack it in with the zone and double in the post,” Blalock said. “We also had to get out and contest their shooters.”
Every time Tigers’ senior center Arthur Johnson got the ball, the Cyclones’ big men collapsed on him. Johnson scored 10 points and grabbed only four rebounds. When the Cyclones’ double-teams stifled the Missouri post players’ offense, the Tigers tried shooting from the perimeter.
Freshman Thomas Gardner made four 3-pointers, and McKinney hit three. Paulding was the only other Tiger to make a 3-pointer. The Tigers shot 8-of-25 from outside.
Point guard Randy Pulley said the Tigers struggled to find any consistency against the Cyclones’ defense.
“Iowa State is pretty big inside with Vroman and Homan, and they made it hard to get open for 3-pointers,” he said.
The Tigers trailed 37-29 at halftime.
After five minutes with little second-half improvement, Snyder replaced all five players on the floor. Pulley, Gardner, Jason Conley, Kevin Young and Linas Kleiza stepped in and sparked a 10-2 run.
A Paulding fast-break lay up with 8:41 left, put the Tigers ahead, 54-53, for the first time since the 10-minute mark of the first half.
Paulding’s basket ignited a Missouri 13-3 run.
He hit two more field goals, and Gardner capped the surge with another 3. The Tigers led 63-56, but Cyclones’ freshman Curtis Stinson chipped away their lead.
Stinson scored three straight baskets to bring them within one, 63-62. With 56.4 seconds left, Stinson hit a basket to put the Cyclones ahead for good, 66-65.
Stinson led the Cyclones’ offense with 22 points.
The Tigers continued to play cautiously as their lead slipped, an attitude Snyder said has hampered his team.
“We were unsure of ourselves against the zone,” Snyder said. “We looked tentative offensively. We need to put it on the line for the entire game.”
The Cyclones did something no other team has done this season against Missouri, outrebounding the Tigers 33-32.
Cyclones’ Jared Homan grabbed nine rebounds, and Stinson had six.
“I can’t ask more from a team,” Cyclones’ coach Wayne Morgan said. “You can’t control bounces or passes, but you can control how hard you play.”
Paulding said he never expected his squad to lose five games this early in the season, but he said the Tigers will remedy that once they fix their first-half struggles.
“We’ve lost games with the way we’ve played in the first half,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we’re not continuing throughout the whole game.
“We can’t quit. We’ve got to build from this and win the rest of our games.”