They weren’t always falling, but Missouri kept shooting.
In the end it was the ones that did go in, or the second chance opportunities they produced that made the difference.
The Tigers made up for poor shooting from behind the arc to beat Brown 68-60 in the first round of the Guardians Classic on Monday. It was also Missouri’s first regular season game at Paige Sports Arena.
Forty percent of Missouri’s field goal attempts in each half were 3-pointers. The Tigers connected on 23 percent in the first half and 30 percent in the second.
The Guardians Classic uses the international 3-point line, which is 20 feet, 6 inches, nine inches farther back than the collegiate line.
“It’s just one of those days I think, and I think you won’t see a lot of those,” senior guard Jason Conley said. “It wasn’t a pretty way to win but we pulled it off.”
Brown played a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game because it lacked a player to guard Linas Kleiza. That forced Missouri to settle for a lot of 3-point attempts, instead of penetrating and drawing fouls. The Tigers took eight trips to the free-throw line in the first half, most coming in the final four minutes.
In the second half, Missouri reversed the trend and made 14 trips to the free-throw line.
“I thought the zone had us on our heels in the first half in particular,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “Tonight’s one of those nights where you’re not shooting it well your defense becomes even more important.”
Even Conley said he found himself struggling with the zone.
“While I was out there I found myself skipping the ball a lot and in order to break down a zone you have to go inside-outside, and I don’t think we were doing that enough,” Conley said. “So we were taking a lot of outside threes. There are a lot of guys on the team that can shoot threes, so that’s why we have the confidence to shoot them.”
Missouri put its confidence in sophomore guard Thomas Gardner, despite his shooting woes. He attempted the most 3-pointers, connecting on 3-of-10 attempts.
He was 0-for-5 in the first half and made his first basket of the game with 12:37 left in the second half. It was also the Tigers’ first basket of the half.
Gardner finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“You know they’re going to make shots,” point guard Spencer Laurie said. “They might miss 10 in a row, but I always think they’re going to make that 11th one. I have complete confidence in all my teammates and I’m definitely going to keep getting them the ball.”
Although Gardner struggled, Conley said you’ve just got to keep shooting.
“I’d do it,” Conley said. “There’s about 30 guys in here that would do it.”
Whereas Missouri struggled from behind the 3-point line, Brown stayed close by connecting on its opportunities. Luke Ruscoe’s 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left in the first half, trimmed the Tigers lead to 33-32 after a Glen Dandridge dunk awoke a dormant crowd.
Damon Huffman, who started in place of the suspended Jason Forte, went 5-for-7 from behind the arc.