It was the play that could have ended Missouri’s losing streak, redeemed a tough night from the field and regain the trust of some fans.
Instead it was the play that turned jubilation into frustration.
With seconds left, Missouri’s Kevin Young made a basket that would have tied the game and was fouled, meaning a successful free throw would have given the Tigers the lead.
A traveling violation negated both as Houston hung to beat Missouri 57-55 and win the consolation championship of the Guardians Classic on Wednesday night at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
It was Missouri’s third straight loss. The Tigers’ most recent win came against Houston Nov. 16 at Paige Arena in the regional championship.
“I for one was celebrating at one point,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “I thought we tied the score and were going up one, but that wasn’t the way it happened.”
Young’s traveling violation came with 16.2 seconds left and Missouri trailing 55-53. Young received the ball in the left block, turned toward the basket, made a tough shot and was fouled. As Missouri started to celebrate, referee Karl Hess blew his whistle and called Young for traveling.
“I thought it was a good point,” Missouri’s Jason Conley said. “I thought Cap went up and scored, but then I saw the ref say, ‘No, no, no,’ and I just knew it was a travel.
“It was a tough play, but you can’t blame the whole entire game on that one play. There were a whole bunch of things that went on in the game that we have to see the film and change.”
With one second left, Missouri’s Linas Kleiza had the opportunity to make up for earlier struggles and send the game into overtime.
His last-second try in the lane rolled out.
“We got Linas the ball right where we wanted to and it’s just a tough break,” Thomas Gardner said. “The shot rolled in and out, but that’s the shot we wanted.”
Kleiza, the team’s leading scorer this season, finished with nine points on 2-for-15 shooting. Part of his struggles could have stemmed from an elbow he took to his right eye with 14:20 left in the second half.
Not long after, he missed 3-pointers on three straight possessions. He shot air balls on the first two.
“We were in his face,” Houston coach Tom Penders said. “He didn’t get too many open looks. We were hoping he’d stay on the perimeter most of the night and we did a good job of staying on him, hand in the face.
“We wanted other people to beat us. If Horton was going to go off, he was gong to go off. If the big fella was going to score inside, he was going to score inside. But we were going to try and not let Kleiza, Conley and their shooter, Thomas Gardner, beat us.”