Missouri point guard Randy Pulley’s minutes have been dwindling in the Tigers’ past two games.
On Saturday, Pulley did not even make it to the game.
After missing two practices after the Tigers’ 83-70 loss Wednesday at Colorado, Pulley was suspended indefinitely, Missouri coach Quin Snyder said.
“We’ll talk to Randy and resolve whatever needs to be resolved next week,” Snyder said.
Pulley missed the Tigers’ first four games because of eligibility requirements, waiting for Missouri to certify six of his transfer credits from Barton (Kan.) County Community College.
Since his debut Dec. 21 against UNC-Greensboro, Pulley’s effectiveness has been inconsistent.
Making his first start against Texas A&M on Jan. 10, Pulley played 35 minutes. His time on the court has been scarce since. He played two minutes against Nebraska and did not play against Colorado.
With Pulley missing from the Tigers’ lineup, sophomore Jimmy McKinney moved back to the starting point guard spot.
“I don’t know what Randy thinks,” he said. “I think he and coach just need to talk. That’s Coach’s decision, what Coach wants to do about the situation.”
McKinney, a natural shooting guard, scored 10 points and had six assists.
Although Snyder didn’t give a timetable for Pulley’s return, McKinney said he could use Pulley’s presence in the backcourt.
“That’s up to Randy,” McKinney said. “I’d love Randy back, though, but that’s up to Coach and him.”
SORE WINNERS: Missouri athletic trainer Pat Beckman has been one of the busiest members of the Tigers’ bench.
After freshman forward Linas Kleiza dislocated his right shoulder Wednesday, a few more close calls with injuries had Beckman on his feet Saturday.
Freshman guard Thomas Gardner left with 8:43 left in the first half, wincing in pain.
Despite a dislocated left ring finger, Gardner returned to score a game-high 16. He also grabbed six rebounds and had a block and an assist.
Senior slasher Rickey Paulding hit the court hard after driving through the lane for a missed layup with 9:55 left.
Referees stopped play while Paulding lay facedown. A few seconds later, he got up without assistance and left the court with Beckman. With a bruised left hip, Paulding returned to the game less than a minute later.
“It scared me a little bit,” Paulding said. “Once I got up I felt a lot better.”
With MU’s lineup shrinking, the Tigers’ bench help is crucial. Although Snyder’s bench players combined for eight points, Snyder was happy with their defensive production.
“I’m really pleased with our whole bench today,” Snyder said.
Kleiza’s absence gives sophomore Kevin Young, who has disappeared among Missouri’s star big men this year, a chance to make his presence felt.
“Linas obviously provides us with some toughness,” Snyder said. “That’s a big hole to fill.”
When senior forward Travon Bryant was called for his fourth foul and a technical foul that sent him to the bench with 5:14 left, he said he knew foul trouble would hurt the Tigers most with Kleiza gone.
Although Young didn’t score, he had five rebounds. That effort is what Bryant said he and center Arthur Johnson need in the post.
“Not having that kind of weighs on us, especially with having three posts. Our big men, we get kind of tired out there,” Bryant said.
Bryant said this is Young’s best chance to shine. Before Saturday’s game, Bryant showed Young game tape from some of his standout performances last season.
“I just kind of showed him, like, ‘Cat, we need that out of you. We need that out of you for the rest of the year, as long as Linas is out and even when he comes back,’” Bryant said. “He brings a big presence, even though it’s not scoring, it’s defensively for the rest of the year.”
THE SWEETEST SWISH: After scoring a team-high 19 in his debut against UNC-Greensboro, junior transfer Jason Conley scored 10 in the Tigers’ next 11 games.
Conley drilled at 3-pointer at the 11:54 mark that sent the Hearnes Center crowd of 13,611 into an uproar.
“The guys were more excited for Jason than Jason was to see the ball go in the basket,” Snyder said. “As much as you tell him, don’t worry about your jump shot, it feels good to have the ball go in.”
Conley was the first freshman to lead the nation in scoring after a 29-point average at Virginia Military Institute, but Snyder said his defense is keeping his minutes to a minimum.
“I don’t know if everybody else sees it, but I’m hearing it from Coach and I’m hearing from my teammates that it’s getting a lot better,” Conley said. “I don’t just quit. I just know that if I keep working and keep practicing, it’s going to happen. I won’t accept anything else.”
JOHNSON JUMPING RECORDS: Johnson’s seven rebounds moved him to second in Missouri’s rebounding charts with 986. He is 67 behind the leader, Doug Smith.
Johnson also broke into Missouri’s top 10 scoring list with 13 points against Kansas State. He has 1,500 points.
HARRIS RETURNS: Wildcats freshman Lance Harris, a Hickman graduate, played seven minutes but did not score. Harris was 0-for-2 with one turnover.