Finals week won’t carry the same pressure for Missouri’s Jason Conley as it has in the past, and he is not afraid to brag about it.
“I’m just going be honest with you, (my teammates are) going to have some problems with exams because I’m finished,” Conley said. “I graduate in exactly one week, so I’m excited. They’ll be in exams and I’ll be here in the gym.”
Conley, a senior, said an 87-62 win against the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday at Mizzou Arena also went a long way in easing his concerns.
“I’ve been talking about it for weeks now, ‘We’ve got to finish guys off,’ and I think that’s what we did (Saturday),” Conley said.
This theme permeated Missouri’s postgame locker room, where players talked about what a boost the Tigers’ largest victory of the season provided.
After a week of exams, the Tigers (5-4) play Indiana (2-4) on Dec. 19 at Mizzou Arena.
“To be honest, it’s a real confidence booster,” freshman guard Jason Horton said.
“It does a little bit for our morale. We had a few good games where we’ll jump out early on a team and they’ll slowly chip away at the lead. It feels good to just put a team away.”
Early in the first half against the Grizzlies, Missouri almost fell into the same pitfall. The Tigers shot more 3-pointers than 2-pointers and led 14-10 with nine minutes left in the first half.
Sophomore Linas Kleiza knew this wasn’t the answer, and his aggressive play sparked the Tigers.
Kleiza scored 16 of the next 23 points, and Missouri opened a 37-21 halftime lead.
Midway through the second half, the Tigers started to settle for 3-pointers again. Coach Quin Snyder noticed the trend and called a timeout.
“When you’re not shooting the ball well, or when you have a 15-point lead with eight minutes to play, you need to feel the game, and at those times that’s when you need to go inside, get something going to the rim, get fouled, impact the game that way,” Snyder said.
“I thought that was a teachable moment, where they could understand that.”
The Tigers picked up on Snyder’s instruction and scored their next 15 points from in the lane or at the free-throw line.
Freshman Kalen Grimes, who had a career-high 12 points and four blocks, scored seven straight points in that span.
Kleiza and Horton also had career-highs. Kleiza finished with 26 and fouled out with four minutes left. Horton had eight points on 3-for-3 shooting.
“We haven’t had one of those games where we really dominated the way we did tonight,” Snyder said.
“And I think that gives us some confidence, and obviously a game like Indiana provides an opportunity for us to grow some more.”