Remembering to look forward is the riskiest business of riding the adrenaline wave of five consecutive wins.
Minutes after Tuesday’s overtime thriller against Oklahoma State, every Missouri player started shaking off the seventh-heaven satisfaction to focus on the next Big 12 Conference challenge.
“It’s a great feeling to take this all in, but we know that we’ve got to get ready for Kansas State on Saturday,” senior forward Travon Bryant said. “We can enjoy it right now. It’s hard not to enjoy it after beating one of the best teams in the country, but we definitely can’t be satisfied.
“We can’t have a hangover. They’ll come out fighting, and we’ve got to accept that challenge.”
A quick recovery before traveling to Bramladge Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan., to face the Wildcats (12-12, 4-8 Big 12) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday doesn’t ease the wager of a conference road trip.
Tigers look to maintain focus
Even if the latest string of bizarre Big 12 upsets left the Wildcats at 10th place, the Tigers (14-10, 8-5) know how much is at stake.
“If there’s a tendency to let down because of the emotion of this game in overtime, that’s there, but there shouldn’t be. That can’t be how we’re thinking,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve been through too much and are playing for too much.”
In this conference, anything can happen on the road. Snyder and his team have plenty of firsthand experience in that regard this season.
After dismal defeats at Iowa State and Colorado, the Tigers reversed their conference fate with huge home wins against both teams.
Since Nebraska wreaked havoc on Missouri’s confidence in a 78-62 dose of embarrassment in Lincoln, Neb., the Tigers have won five straight. They earned one on the road last weekend at Baylor.
Scraping past the Bears in a 70-66 win was a harder fought accomplishment than the Tigers expected, but senior Rickey Paulding said the strain gave his squad the prerequisite confidence for Tuesday’s spirited upset.
“The game at Baylor, things didn’t go our way, but we were able to get a win. I think we really had confidence that we could play and see that light in the tunnel,” Paulding said. “Everybody’s good at home in this league.”
Gardner led charge in first meeting
In the teams’ earlier meeting this season, the Tigers jumped to a nine-point lead in the first half, but the Wildcats roared back to within two at the break. Leading 27-25 after halftime, freshman Thomas Garner took over for the Tigers and scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second period.
After a shooting surge, the Tigers distanced themselves from the Wildcats, staying ahead by at least seven points for the rest of the game before winning 62-53.
“(Beating Oklahoma State) will be a hard one to forget about,” Paulding said. “We’re just going to remember how we stayed together and how we played and what we did to win.
“K-State is another challenge for us on the road, and I think we’re at a point now where we know we’re not going to take them lightly.”
Manhattan has bad memories for some Tigers
The Tigers’ lone loss to the Wildcats under Snyder was an 80-59 upset in January 2001 in Manhattan that the Tigers’ four seniors haven’t forgotten.
Senior center Arthur Johnson, a freshman when the Wildcats upended then-No. 20 Missouri, made sure all Tigers newcomers know how much damage overlooking a Big 12 sleeper such as Kansas State can do to their season and mounting confidence.
As crushing as losing to Oklahoma State could have been, Johnson said the emotional win will not improve the Tigers’ postseason picture unless they can continue the streak Saturday.
“We’ve got to go down there with our heads on straight,” Johnson said. “We have to for this team to take a bigger step and do the kinds of things we’ve talked about.
“We’ve been talking about it the whole year. Now it’s starting to pay off a little bit, and we’ve just got to keep it going. This is a crucial time of year.”