Travon Bryant isn’t ready to give up on his senior season, and his play Tuesday night proved it.
Bryant, a 6-foot-9 senior from Long Beach, Calif., did everything necessary to help Missouri to a 77-65 Big 12 Conference win against Colorado at Hearnes Center.
Bryant scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but perhaps more important, he also made the little plays. Bryant played solid defense, helping on CU center David Harrison, and added a career-high six assists.
“I like to do that,” Bryant said. “I like to do stuff like that. If it’s something that we need, I’m willing to provide it, just making good passes, getting my teammates open shots. I know if I make the extra pass and get them going, our offense is a lot more difficult to guard, and it spreads. Everything else opens.
“Whatever I can do to get guys open shots, I’m willing to do it.”
Bryant, who averages 11.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, said he received energy and encouragement from an impromptu one-on-one workout with Missouri coach Quin Snyder before the game.
Bryant set his previous career-high in assists, five, when the Tigers (10-10, 5-5 Big 12) played at Colorado on Jan. 28.
The Buffaloes (13-8, 5-5) won the first matchup 83-70.
Senior center Arthur Johnson benefited from Bryant’s passing Tuesday. Johnson made 8-of-12 field goals, and four came after feeds from Bryant at the high post.
“Travon played a good game,” Johnson said. “He was emotional. He did the little things we need to win. As a part of that, I got baskets, other guys got baskets, and he got baskets. He also played great on defense.”
Snyder said Bryant played poised offensively.
“The thing that impressed me most was the way he passed the ball,” Snyder said. “He was throwing the ball into the post and finding guys. He just looked really comfortable with the ball. That’s good for us because people are sagging off the perimeter. You really have to be able to deliver the ball, and he was doing that (Tuesday).”
Snyder also said his one-on-one workout with Bryant during the pregame warm-ups helped.
“He got in the flow of the game, I guess that’s the thing I like the most,” Snyder said. “He’s playing with confidence, and he’s playing hard. If he’s playing hard and with emotion, he’s talented enough where he’s going to have success.”
Although Bryant did not score in the Tigers’ decisive second-half run, he performed a crucial role, grabbing three rebounds and assisting on a Johnson basket. With the Tigers leading 67-61 with 3:04 left, Bryant tipped a Johnson miss away from the Buffaloes, keeping the play alive so junior guard Jason Conley could secure the loose ball and score.
Throughout the season, which has been marred with collective inconsistency, no one has played as consistently as Bryant.
Bryant’s shooting represents one aspect of his game that has improved greatly. He shot 48 percent in 2002-03 but is shooting 56 percent this season and 46 percent from 3-point range.
After making all five shots attempts against Nebraska on Saturday, Bryant made his first five attempts Tuesday. When he missed a shot with 6:23 left, it was his first miss since a missed 3-pointer with 2:18 left against Kansas on Feb. 2.
“I’m just taking good shots,” Bryant said. “I’m not really rushing anything. I’m playing off my teammates and playing within the offense, and when I do get the ball, I don’t force it and take good shots.”
On defense, Bryant and Johnson slowed Harrison, who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Feb. 2. The Tigers held Harrison to eight points after he had 22 points and 10 rebounds when the teams played in Boulder.
“(Bryant) played great,” Harrison said. “He rebounded the ball well. He defended well and hit his shots. He’s a pretty good player.”