Jason Conley had never seen it before. It was something unique, and it gave Missouri a different pregame attitude.
Sparked by a brisk pregame practice with coach Quin Snyder, the Tigers came on late in the second half to beat Colorado 77-65 on Tuesday night at Hearnes Center.
Conley and Snyder worked on lateral moves for several minutes, ones Conley could use against pressure when he brings the ball down the floor. Tuesday’s game was Conley’s second with extended time at point guard.
In addition to the fundamental instruction he received, Conley said the team was better prepared after having its coach put the players through their paces minutes before tip-off.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen coach Q out there,” Conley said. “If we have to do that every day to win, I’ll do it. I don’t mind.”
Snyder said he wanted to show his players he was with them despite the troubles they have experienced.
“I feel like, as much as our guys have been through, I wanted to let them know that I’m with them every step of the way,” he said. “We’re not always happy with them, but I’m with them. Whatever I can do, or whatever any of them can do, we can try to find more.”
After staying tight for the first 35 minutes, Missouri found more late, closing on a 17-5 run. Colorado did not score a field goal during a span of 5:42 late in the second half.
The Tigers (10-10, 5-5 Big 12 Conference) went on an 18-2 run during that stretch to earn their first win in three games.
With the game tied at 60 with 5:22 to play, Missouri scored 15 of the next 16 points. Guard Jimmy McKinney scored five in the run, and Conley added four.
Center Arthur Johnson had perhaps the biggest basket, a baby hook over center David Harrison, followed by an arm pump when a foul was called to give the Tigers a 65-61 edge. Johnson missed the free throw, but the Tigers scored the next 10 after Johnson’s emotional boost.
Johnson and Harrison, both seniors have built a mutual respect over four years playing against each other. Johnson said he enjoys facing Harrison, another physical player who enjoys life under the basket.
“He’s a big fella and he loves to bang,” Johnson said. “You know what you’re going to get from him and you know he’s going to play hard. It makes the game more competitive. It just adds juice to it.”
Harrison had 22 points and 10 rebounds in the Buffaloes’ 83-70 win against the Tigers on Jan. 28 in Boulder, but Johnson controlled Tuesday’s meeting, scoring 16 points and adding four rebounds. Harrison had eight points with 10 rebounds, but struggled to a 2-of-11 mark at the free-throw line.
Four of those misses came during Missouri’s late-game run, in which the Tigers made 6-of-7 foul shots.
The teams traded rallies throughout the second half: Colorado had an early 8-0 run, highlighted by two 3-pointers from forward Michel Morandais, who led all scorers with 18. Missouri responded with a 6-0 run, which the Buffaloes followed with a 6-0 run.
The runs solved nothing: The teams were tied at 49 with 13:12 to play and again at 60 eight minutes later.
After a perfect shooting night in a 78-62 loss at Nebraska on Saturday, Missouri forward Travon Bryant continued the run with an unblemished first half, scoring 11. Bryant continued his strong play in the second half, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists, a career high.
“I know if I make the extra pass and get them going, our offense is going to be difficult to guard,” Bryant said. “It spreads everything else open, so whatever I can do to get guys open shots, I’m willing to do it.”
Colorado (13-8, 5-5) was careless with the ball early, committing nine turnovers in the first nine minutes and 19 overall.
Despite attempting seven more shots in the first half, the Tigers led 37-32 at halftime.
Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said his team’s turnover problems come from a lack of focus.
“I think a lot of it speaks directly to our maturity,” he said. “I don’t think our guys know how to mentally prepare on the road. I see a difference in their carriage and everything else. You have to know how to prepare for games (to win), and I don’t think we know how to do that yet, mentally.”
It was the opposite for Missouri. After Snyder led them through pregame drills, the Tigers produced one of their most consistent efforts.
Conley said he would not be surprised if Snyder keeps the same preparation as the season winds down:
“He’ll probably start to do that more now.”