While the rest of the team followed the normal pregame routine, junior guard Jimmy McKinney warmed up in the practice gym alone.
“I think that just helped to get my mind free and really focus on the game,” McKinney said. “I didn’t see the crowd yet; I want to wait until the game starts to see the crowd. I wanted the attention off me and just got focused. I came out really aggressive.”
McKinney provided bookends to the Tigers’ 62-59 win against Iowa State on Saturday at Mizzou Arena. He knocked down a 3-pointer to jumpstart the Tiger offense four minutes into the game. He scored four points in the final 27 seconds, including two free throws with 13 seconds left to seal the win. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“I’m way overdue,” McKinney said. “It just seems like when I get aggressive and I just stop thinking everything just comes. When I’m out there thinking and being patient and running around, it’s hard. But when I’m just attacking and I let my mind free, the game comes easy. The game goes slow.”
McKinney spent most of his 31 minutes guarding Iowa State’s Curtis Stinson. The Cyclone’s sophomore guard, who was the Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year last season, is anything but slow.
McKinney was forced to rely on physicality and aggressiveness to contain Stinson, which resulted in several heated exchanges between the two guards.
When the Cyclones called a timeout with 7:30 left in the first half, Stinson stayed in front of the Missouri bench to jaw at McKinney. McKinney stepped up in Stinson’s face. The two eventually had to be separated by a referee.
“He just kept touching me, so I told him to stop touching me,” Stinson said. “I mean the play was over and he’s still touching me. Just keep playing, I ain’t worried about it. You want to hit me, not guard me. It’s just that simple.”
Stinson, nicknamed ‘Blue Collar’ for his physicality, looked more like a prizefighter than a shooting guard after the game. He was bleeding from his lip. He had a bandage under his right eye and an icepack on his left wrist.
He said the injuries were more annoying than they were serious, the result of getting banged around by McKinney.
“They did some little dirty plays,” Stinson said. “They did some things. I was expecting it. That ain’t nothing new, so I deal with it. They ain’t never going to get me to stop playing. Nobody is.”
McKinney tried to downplay the confrontations.
“He’s a competitive player, just like I am,” McKinney said. “He hates to lose, just like I hate to lose. We talked a little bit. We talked about basketball. We were just talking out there, like two competitors would. I like him though, I think he’s a cool person.”
Even with McKinney all over him, Stinson still managed to score 20. But his scoring was negated when he committed the turnover that may have cost Iowa State the game. With 17 seconds left, trailing 60-59, Stinson dribbled the ball off his foot and over the baseline. He and Missouri sophomore Marshall Brown dove after it, sliding over the line themselves. The referees said Stinson touched it last, and Missouri got the ball back with time running out.
McKinney said he had hoped to do a better job shutting Stinson down, but the win was more than enough consolation, especially considering his own late game heroics and Stinson’s turnover.
“I’m not pleased,” McKinney said. “I think I could have made it a little tougher for him. He’s a great player. He knows what he can do and what he can’t do. He knows he’s got to get in the lane and make things happen. That’s what he did tonight, but I still came out on top.”
The game represented a return to prominence for McKinney, who had been one of the Tigers’ least productive starters over the past five games. Before Saturday, McKinney had been averaging 7.6 points per game.
“I’ve just been trying to do something different,” McKinney said. I’ve been struggling. I’ve been playing not the way I’m supposed to be playing. Everybody knows that and I know that. People have been doubting me, but I’m staying strong.”