Tough opposition

Memorable efforts from top players
Monday, March 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:24 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

As much as some would like, not all of the blame for Missouri’s disappointing season can be placed on the shoulders of the Tigers.

From bruising interior play to clutch, late-game heroics, several Missouri opponents deserve recognition for their memorable performances.

These five players and one coach elevated their games enough for recognition on the All-Opponent team. Their efforts helped push Missouri to its worst season under coach Quin Snyder and a short, forgettable visit to the National Invitation Tournament.

Guard Aaron Miles, Kansas

Miles’ speed and quickness consistently tormented and caused problems for Missouri in the team’s three matchups, but Miles’ legs did not ruin the final game at Hearnes Center.

For the second straight year, Miles made a 3-pointer to save Kansas from an upset. His momentum-changing 3-pointer, from the left wing with 1:20 left, gave the Jayhawks an 82-80 lead, and they won 84-82 on March 7.

In the first matchup, a 65-56 Kansas win Feb. 2 in Lawrence, Miles drove into the lane at will and produced eight assists. Miles’ production matched Missouri’s assist total.

Miles also produced six assists in the Jayhawks’ 94-69 win in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference Tournament on March 12.

Guard John Lucas,Oklahoma State

Based on his performance in Columbia, Lucas should have been wearing a Harlem Globetrotters jersey when Oklahoma State visited Feb. 24.

Even though the Tigers upset the Cowboys 93-92, Lucas did more than his part for the then-No. 6 Cowboys, scoring a career-high 30 points. Lucas added to the thrilling nature of the game with several acrobatic shots; his best came early in the second half, when Lucas fell, kept his dribble, bounced up and hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.

Lucas was the Cowboys’ best response to the Tigers’ strong offense, matching senior swingman Rickey Paulding shot for shot. Perhaps Lucas’ only flaw came when he missed the game’s final shot, a 3-pointer from the top of the key that would have given the Cowboys the win. It was an inappropriate finish to his tremendous performance.

Swingman Andre Emmett, Texas Tech

Emmett did not have his best shooting night of the season against the Tigers on March 3, but his 9-of-22 effort was more than enough to push the Red Raiders to a late-season 87-76 home win.

Both teams were jockeying for position in the Big 12 standings and would tie for fifth place at 9-7. Texas Tech held the tiebreaker, thanks to Emmett’s game-high 28 points and six rebounds.

Emmett was so good he forced Snyder, usually accommodating if not insightful with the media, to end his postgame press conference prematurely after a Texas Tech reporter mentioned Emmett’s performance.

The loss snapped Missouri’s six-game winning streak, and it was all downhill from there; the Tigers closed Hearnes Center with a loss and quickly dropped out of the conference tournament and the NIT. A mediocre performance from Emmett would have changed the path of Missouri’s season.

Forward Hakim Warrick, Syracuse

Warrick presents a matchup problem for most teams. His 6-foot-8, 209-pound frame allows him to be physical inside, and, combined with his long wingspan and great athleticism, opponents quickly discover Warrick can beat them in many different ways.

He needed one way to beat the Tigers when the Orangemen visited Jan. 12. He scored 21 and added 12 rebounds in a dominating 82-68 Syracuse win.

The Tigers had no answer for Warrick, despite trying swingman Rickey Paulding and forward Travon Bryant against him. Almost all of Warrick’s points came from the inside, including three dunks and several layups.

Warrick’s double-double, and a stingy Syracuse 2-3 zone, handed Missouri its fifth loss in seven games and dropped it to 6-6. Come Selection Sunday, a win against the Orangemen might have pushed the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament.

Forward Wayne Simien, Kansas

Simien had three cracks at Missouri this season and became increasingly dominant as he went along.

His first effort, 18 points and four rebounds Feb. 2, was nothing to scoff at, but his work late in the season was more impressive. Simien poured in 22 points and seven rebounds in Kansas’ Hearnes Center-closing win March 7, and then followed that performance with a career-high 31 points and 11 rebounds to knock Missouri out of the Big 12 Tournament five days later. Simien was automatic in Dallas, making 12-of-14 shots and all seven tries at the free throw line against the Tigers.

Simply put, he was the most dominant player Missouri faced.

Unlike the other players on this list, Simien overpowered the Missouri defense. Despite scoring outputs of 15, 37 and 26 from Missouri center Arthur Johnson, who often matched up against Simien on both ends of the court, Missouri could not slow down Simien enough to earn a win. The Tigers lost to the Jayhawks three times in one season for the first time since 1978-79.

Coach Bill Self, Kansas

Despite the sweep, none of the games came easily for the Jayhawks.

They trailed in the first half of all three, including a 12-point deficit in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. Self, though, had the answer to all of Missouri’s adjustments.

The Jayhawks outscored Missouri 139-107 in the second half of the three games. In addition, the Jayhawks’ scoring output increased from the first to the second half in all three games.

With the three victories against Missouri, Self improved to 6-0 against Snyder.

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