It’s an all too familiar storyline. One that drives senior Jason Conley crazy. One that has been replayed several times this season.
Missouri builds up a lead, lets it dwindle and sneaks by with a close win.
Oakland played the role of the pesky antagonist Saturday at Mizzou Arena as the Tigers pulled out a 70-61 win. It was the second straight game Missouri (4-3) struggled to put a team away.
“It’s actually good for us to have those few close games early, but on a personal level, I’m kind of tired of it being close,” Conley said. “I’m ready to actually finish teams off. I’m tired of it being close. Every time I look up and that lead keeps going down and down, I just go nuts.”
It didn’t help that Conley spent more time than usual on the bench after getting into foul trouble.
After picking up his second foul early in the first half, Conley watched a 13-point lead turn into a two-point deficit as the Tigers went six-minutes without a field goal.
Sophomore Thomas Gardner ended the drought with a three-point play with 28 seconds left to give Missouri a 30-29 halftime lead.
Saturday’s first half plot was eerily similar to the one that played out Nov. 28 against Murray State.
In that game, Missouri jumped out to a 20-5 lead midway through the first half. After going more than seven minutes without a field goal, the Tigers’ lead was trimmed to 20-18.
With 30 seconds left the Racers took a 26-25 lead, and Missouri needed Linas Kleiza’s jump shot at the buzzer to go into halftime ahead.
This season, the Tigers have not won a game where they have trailed at the half.
“We just have to learn, as a
team, how to put teams away,” Conley said. “We’re getting (a killer instinct). I’m not going to say we’re lacking it because we’re winning games.”
Missouri coach Quin Snyder said developing that instinct involves recognizing when they need to focus and knock somebody back. A lack of concentration, especially on the defensive end, has allowed opponents chances to get back into games.
Missouri held the Grizzlies’ leading scorer Rawle Marshall to 14 points, but allowed other players easy opportunities that kept the game close.
Cortney Scott and Kris Krzyminski were each 6-of-10 from the field. Scott had 15 points and Krzyminski finished with 14.
“We’re not really satisfied, but knowing we were able to (stop Marshall) can help us get confidence,” Gardner said.
That confidence as well as some focus and discipline will be needed when Missouri faces Arkansas at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Mizzou Arena. The Razorbacks (5-1) lost to No. 3 Illinois 72-60 in a hard-fought game Saturday.
“We still make some mistakes where you scratch your head and pull your hair out,” Snyder said. “It’s really kind of mind-boggling.
“We’re coaching every play right know, but that’s what we need.”