Leave it to Missouri to make it harder on itself than it needed to.
The Tigers blew a double-digit lead, went more than 12 minutes without a field goal and missed several free throws late, but still found a way to beat Iowa State 62-59 as both teams opened Big 12 Conference play in front of 10,706 fans at Mizzou Arena on Saturday.
“Ah man,” said Missouri’s Jason Conley, as he searched for words to describe the game. “We’re just a weird team.
“We have to play for the entire game. I think we only played about 15 minutes of this whole game.”
That included the last four minutes when the Tigers trailed by 12 points and went on a 17-2 run to finish.
Prior to that, the Tigers (9-5, 1-0) went more than 12 minutes without a field goal, leaving coach Quin Snyder frustrated.
“They’re not thinking about the moment and what we need to do to win, they’re thinking who knows what,” Snyder said. “Thinking about what we had for breakfast, should I wear my socks high or lower and what the hell else?
“I know we’re not thinking about our team and we’re not thinking about defense, and if we don’t do those things we’re really common.”
Missouri got back on track when Jason Horton hit a 3-pointer with four minutes and six seconds left.
Missouri proceeded to complete its comeback with aggressive play on both ends of the court.
With 2:34 seconds left, Linas Kleiza drove down the lane, scored and was fouled. He made the free throw.
With two minutes left, Horton tipped the ball away from Iowa State’s Curtis Stinson and Missouri’s Jimmy McKinney recovered it. McKinney passed it ahead to Horton, who scored on the fast break and was fouled. He made the free throw.
Missouri’s Marshall Brown broke the trend, grabbing a defensive rebound and then driving the length of the court to score on a layup with 1:10 left. That gave the Tigers a 58-57 lead.
“Our defense created a lot of offense for us in the last few minutes and that’s how we’ve got to play,” Horton said. “We went through a little period where we backed off defensively and let them do what they wanted to do, and I think we picked it up and got more aggressive on the defensive end and it carried over to the offensive end.”
Stinson, who finished with a game-high 22 points, helped Iowa State (8-4, 0-1) retake the lead with 54 seconds left, but Missouri wasn’t done.
McKinney, who had 10 points, received a pass at the free-throw line and was double-teamed. He tried to find an open man but instead spun around and connected on a tough jumper. He fouled on the play but missed the free throw. Missouri led 60-59 with 27 seconds left.
Next time down the court, Stinson turned the ball over and Iowa State was forced to foul. Kleiza went to the line with the chance to secure the game, but missed both free throws. The second kicked out long, though, and McKinney grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made both to give the Tigers a 3-point lead with 13 seconds left.
John Neal’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer missed.
“I understand it is Big 12 play and it’s our first conference win, but that’s not a win that you’re going to say, ‘We played well. We played up to our potential,’” Conley said. “Everybody in this locker room, we’re happy that we won, but we understand if we play anybody else like that in the Big 12, it’s not going to have the same outcome.”
Missouri, which fed off aggressive offense in the first half and built a 13-point lead early in the second half, got complacent as the second half progressed and stumbled under the Cyclones’ pressure.
The Tigers committed 13 turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the second half as Iowa State went on a 25-2 run to take a 54-43 lead with 5:20 left in second half.
“I just thought we were soft, we weren’t competing,” Snyder said. “Our mistakes were almost handing the ball to them, ‘Here take it from us.’”
In the first half, Missouri broke Iowa State’s 2-3 zone with aggressive halfcourt offense.
The Tigers attacked the basket, slashed to openings and found open shooters. The outcome was a 54 percent field goal percent in the first half and a 33-24 halftime lead.
This type of play was lacking in the second half and Brown knew it.
“We play hard and that’s why we’ve won the few games we’ve won is because we play hard,” Brown said. “Like coach said we got really soft and it showed because they exposed us and luckily we were able to get back into the game.”