BOULDER, Colo. – When David Harrison faces Arthur Johnson, he knows to expect a tough game, and that’s what he got.
“Me and Arthur are both great players and great competitors,” Harrison said. “I never feel like I get the better of him, we both just play hard. We go out there and give it our all, and after the game, we give each other a hug and say ‘Good game’ and that we played our hardest.”
Harrison, though, had the larger impact Wednesday night. Harrison’s authoritative play on the inside helped the Buffaloes to an 83-70 win against Missouri at Coors Events Center.
Although maligned for his inconsistent play and struggles dealing with frustration, Harrison had his offense on track. Harrison, a 7-foot, senior center, had 22 points and a game-high 10 rebounds while his counterpart, Johnson, struggled in the first half but found the range late for 19 points and six rebounds. They are two of the Big 12 Conference’s premier centers.
“We hit our open shots and pulled the defense out and the double team had to come a little bit later,” Harrison said. “It gave me a chance to get a shot off.
“It’s definitely been the best game I’ve played in Big 12 this year. Offensively, I think the game is coming to me a little bit better.”
Harrison, who made 9-of-12 shots, said he was most impressed with his 8-of-12 free throws made.
Johnson got his offense going in the second half when he scored 12 straight Tiger points in 3:36. His efforts came too late, and the Tigers (8-8, 3-3 Big 12) could get no closer than 66-50. Johnson fouled out with 2:47 left.
Most of Johnson’s points in the spurt came on short jumpers outside of the lane.
Harrison said the centers’ friendship came from a mutual respect on the court.
“We both played hard,” Harrison said. “One-on-one Arthur is almost impossible to stop. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be almost impossible to stop. You can’t get the better of a player like that because he left everything out there on the floor, and so did I. That’s why there’s no losers in the battle. He battled me as long as he was in the game and I respect that.”
Johnson said he also enjoys when the two centers play against each other.
“I kind of built a relationship with David since he got here,” Johnson said. “We play against each other a lot, and it’s a good matchup for us. He’s a big guy. I’m a big guy. We like to bang on each other. It’s a physical game, and we always play hard against each other.”
Harrison dominated the inside in the first half, making 5-of-7 shots and grabbing three offensive rebounds. On one occasion, Harrison collected an offensive rebound with one hand and with two Tigers on his sides.
Harrison’s presence clogging the middle created open space on the perimeter for the Buffaloes (11-6, 3-3). As a result, guards Michel Morandais and Blair Wilson each hit two 3-pointers.
On the other end, Harrison denied the Tigers’ inside game from getting started. Johnson only attempted three shots, making one of them. Seven of the Tigers 11 field goals were 3-pointers.
KLEIZA INJURED: Freshman forward Linas Kleiza suffered a dislocated right shoulder when he got tangled up with Harrison under the basket with 52 seconds left.
He immediately left the game and went to the locker room, where the shoulder was popped into place. Kleiza’s status for the game against Kansas State on Saturday is unknown. He will be re-evaluated today in Columbia.
“It depends on what the doctor says (today), and how I feel,” Kleiza said.
PAULDING PUNISHED: Senior guard Rickey Paulding received a technical foul with 11:09 left after he argued for a foul call. Paulding drove the right baseline, and when he went up, he received contact from Harrison and lost the ball out of bounds.
Referee Eddie Jackson ruled Colorado ball, and Paulding continued toward Jackson to argue. After a short interchange between them, Paulding turned away and received the technical.
CU guard Michel Morandais connected on the subsequent free throws.
SCOUTS APLENTY: Because, in part, of Harrison and Johnson, 11 NBA scouts attended the game.
Walter Davis, a scout for the Washington Wizards, came to the game to file a report on Harrison, Johnson, Paulding, Kleiza and Morandais.