Caged Tigers need win

Beating Kansas might be impossible, but the impossible could save Missouri's season.
Monday, January 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:04 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Expectations for the Tigers at the beginning of the season were not high, but even the harshest critics wouldn’t have expected Missouri to be in the position it is now.

On Saturday night, Kansas State completed its first sweep of Missouri in more than 20 years. The loss also dropped Missouri to 10-10 on the season and 2-5 in Big 12 Conference play.

Missouri senior Jason Conley said he doesn’t know why the season has gone so poorly but Missouri isn’t an average team.

“We’ve done things this year that are weird,” Conley said. “We’ve lost to teams we’re not supposed to lose to. We beat teams we’re not supposed to beat and anything is possible.”

Missouri needs to do the impossible if it hopes to beat No. 6 Kansas (16-1, 6-0) at 6 tonight at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.

Conley said even though Kansas is a heavy favorite, the Tigers aren’t about to pack it in.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people doubting us going there,” Conley said. “But we’re going to go and give it our best shot.”

Missouri’s best shot may not be good enough, especially if the team keeps shooting poorly. Against the Wildcats (13-4, 3-3), Missouri hit just 17.2 percent of its 3-pointers. More than half of the team’s shots were from behind the arc.

Missouri coach Quin Snyder said the offensive struggles aren’t from bad offense, just bad shooting.

He said most of the Tigers’ 3-point shots are open looks that the team needs to make to beat strong zone defenses.

“It’s really hard to win when you’re shooting such a low percentage,” Snyder said. “There’s a couple ways you can address that. You can get out early and try to get transition baskets, which I thought we did at times. You can also go to the offensive boards.”

Even though Kansas is one of the toughest teams in the nation, Snyder said he is confident in the Tigers' ability to do well.

"I think for our team, to be honest, adversity externally like that is something we've really rallied behind when we've been in those environments," Snyder said.

Snyder said the game against Kansas is a little different from games this season.

He said a win at Kansas would be important to confidence. The Tigers have lost five of their past six.

“We’ve had a number of tough nights lately and I know, like I said, that our kids are really down,” Snyder said. “We do get a chance to play again (today) and pull off something that no one expects for us to be able to do.”

Sophomore forward Linas Kleiza sat in the locker room after the loss to Kansas State with his head down.

Occasionally, he would glance up to answer a question, but the look on his face showed his disappointment. His shoulders slumped under the burden of an all but lost season.

Kleiza mustered the confidence to say the Tigers had a good chance to win.

“We’ve got nothing to lose, nothing to protect,” Kleiza said. “We’ve just got to go out there and have confidence in ourselves and play hard. Nobody expects us to win so we have no pressure on our backs.”

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