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Bryant points way for offense

Missouri forward scores 16 after struggling in losses.
Friday, March 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:06 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

DALLAS – When Travon Bryant’s offense has struggled, so has Missouri.

The Tigers’ past two losses serve as a perfect example, but with the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes in danger Thursday, Bryant regained his midseason form.

Bryant’s effort in the Tigers’ 74-68 win against Texas A&M proved his two-game slump was an aberration in his otherwise excellent season.

Bryant snapped out of his shooting slump, scoring 16 on 6-of-9 shooting. He also made 4-of-5 free throws.

“I found myself playing a little bit more relaxed (Thursday) and not forcing things,” Bryant said. “Those two games I found myself shooting a lot of fadeaway jump shots and not attacking the basket.”

Bryant, who had two assists, also said he focused on playing through the offense and looking for his teammates.

Bryant made a combined 5-of-22 shots for 11 points in the Tigers’ most recent losses at Texas Tech and against Kansas. He had 11 in the first half against the Aggies, the No. 11 seed.

For the season, though, Bryant is averaging a career-high 10.7 points. In his first three seasons, he averaged 6.5 points. The Tigers, the No. 5 seed, improved to 11-5 when Bryant scores in double figures.

Such play earned Bryant an Honorable Mention selection to the All-Big 12 team from the Big 12 coaches Wednesday. Bryant hit all five of his shot attempts in the first half. His basket with 5:57 left gave Missouri a 27-26 lead.

Bryant’s interior scoring allowed others such as sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney and senior center Arthur Johnson room to score. McKinney scored a game-high 20, and Johnson added 14 points.

Good D in Big D

Bryant, though, had more than an offensive effect. With the Tigers’ leading 49-46, the Aggies hurried down court with a 2-on-1 fast break and a chance to swing the momentum. Bryant stepped in front of Aggies forward Antoine Wright and drew a charge.

Moments later, after the Aggies had a 54-53 lead, Bryant tipped a pass off Wright’s hands out of bounds for a turnover. The Tigers (16-12) scored on their next possession and did not trail again.

Finally, with the Aggies (7-21) desperately trying to keep their season alive, Bryant rejected a Jesse King shot with 51 seconds left. Had the shot gone in, the lead would have been reduced to 71-68.

Bryant said he played a more vocal role in the Tigers’ effort, which translated into success on both ends of the court.

“My emotion (Thursday) really carried over to my play,” Bryant said.

Bryant also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots at crucial points of the game.

Strong late-season play from Bryant isn’t a new phenomenon. He stepped up his play during the Tigers’ run to the final of the 2003 Big 12 Tournament. He hit the game-winning shot as time expired in the quarterfinals against Oklahoma State. A day later, he scored 18 points in the upset of No. 1 seed Kansas.

WATKINS DONE AS COACH OF AGGIES:

Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins coached his final game for the Aggies after announcing his resignation Wednesday afternoon.

“Everyone came out and gave their all for Coach Watkins, but we were just not able to knock down our shots (Thursday),” Wright said.

In his six years in College Station, Watkins was 60-112, and Watkins struggled to get the Aggies going this season.

Watkins defeated the Tigers once, a 73-71 victory on Feb. 12, 2003.

AJ UP TO FIFTH:

When Johnson made a short jumper with 10:36 left in the first half, he moved into fifth on Missouri’s scoring list.

He finished with 14 points and has 1,707. Melvin Booker previously had the fifth spot with 1,697 points.

Johnson will likely finish his career in this position. Former center Steve Stipanovich has the No. 4 spot secured with 1,836 points from 1980-83.

TIGERS REMAIN UNBEATEN IN FIRST ROUND:

With the win, the Tigers improved to 7-0 in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.

TIGERS GOLDEN IN DRESS:

For the first time this year, the Tigers wore their gold uniforms. Because they were the higher seed, the Tigers had the chance to choose which color they wanted to wear.


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