Nothing came easy for Gonzaga’s Ronny Turiaf. Missouri defenders made sure of that.
Throughout the game, Kevin Young, Kalen Grimes and any other Tiger who drew a matchup with Turiaf, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, put a hand in his face.
The pressure, combined with a festering right ankle injury, resulted in one Turiaf’s worst games of his career as No. 12 Gonzaga fell 63-61 to Missouri on Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
Turiaf, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer and rebounder, struggled to find the rim most of the night and his last-second attempt to tie the game was no different.
With less than eight seconds left, he took his running, off-balance jumper from the right side of the court. It hit the side of the backboard.
He finished with six points on 2-for-15 shooting and nine rebounds. He came in averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds.
“If I put myself in his situation I would be frustrated because that’s his team and he’s a senior,” Gonzaga’s J.P. Batista said.
For the second-straight game, Batista had to step up in Turiaf’s absence. Turiaf had 17 points and 10 rebounds two days after posting a career-high 18 points in a win against No. 3 Oklahoma State.
“They post the ball constantly,” Young said. “They’re always looking for Turiaf. I’ll give them credit (Batista) had a great game against us.
“We were just trying to push them as far off the block as possible and try to double team when they put it on the floor.”
REST STOP: Sitting on the bench never felt so good.
After playing all but one minute of the first half and the first eight minutes of the second half, Missouri’s Jason Horton went to bench ready for a breather.
His teammate Thomas Gardner made the two-minute break even better, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Tigers a 61-51 lead with 8:27 left.
“Those were two big shots,” Horton said. “It gave us a lot of momentum going into the last eight minutes of the game.”
Horton played a team-high 37 minutes and finished with six points, three assists and no turnovers.
Horton received little rest Thursday because Spencer Laurie, a sophomore point guard, is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee.
‘A’ FOR ATTENDANCE: After selling all of its season tickets before the start of the season, Missouri expected to play in front of a sold-out arena for most of its home games.
In the first eight home games, the Tigers never neared the 15,000 capacity of Mizzou Arena, averaging 8710 fans. That changed Tuesday as 14,675 fans were in attendance for the Tigers’ victory.
Missouri’s previous season-high in Mizzou Arena was 10,086 on Dec. 7 against Arkansas.
PUMP IT UP: It was loud but not loud enough for Missouri coach Quin Snyder.
After Young connected on the second of two free throws with 1:25 left, Gonzaga’s Dereck Raivio brought the ball down the court as Snyder stood near Missouri’s bench waving his hands in the air in an attempt to get Missouri fans on their feet.
The enthusiasm of the fans didn’t come as a surprise to Missouri’s Jimmy McKinney but the number of students in attendance did.
“I was like, ‘Man, what’s going on, school ain’t here yet,’” McKinney said. “But the crowd gave us a big boost. In warm-ups, I was like, ‘We’re going to have a great night,’ because I knew the crowd was going to be in the game and we were going to make sure they were into the game.”