LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jason Conley did everything right. He drove, had good shot selection and played strong defense.
Conley’s best efforts still weren’t enough to lift Missouri to its first road win of the season. In a 73-61 loss to No. 3 Kansas on Monday at Allen Field House, Conley scored 20 points, had four rebounds and three steals. Big numbers weren’t the only thing Conley contributed.
The only Tigers senior, Conley allowed the rest of the young Missouri team to rally behind him. He was so successful at rallying the team that the Tigers led the Jayhawks 41-30 early in the second half.
Conley started a 12-3 run late in the first period with a 3-pointer and finished it by grabbing a loose ball, dribbling the length of the court and dunking to quiet the raucous Kansas crowd.
Missouri coach Quin Snyder said he knew early that Conley was poised to have a great game.
“I knew it the way he was guarding (Keith) Langford,” Snyder said. “He was just so much more aggressive than he is at times. I don’t think that’s lack of desire or will on Jason’s part. I think sometimes he just can drift mentally.”
Snyder said he complimented Conley on his play after the game and said he needed to see it all the time. Conley is not the only player for the Tigers (10-11, 2-6 Big 12 Conference) to struggle with a wandering mind, Snyder said.
He said all of Missouri’s players needed concentration to be successful and that focus was a big part of Conley’s success against Kansas (17-1, 7-0).
Even though he had a great night, Conley noted there was still space for improvement in his game.
“As I look back on it, I see things that I should have done as far as going to the offensive glass,” Conley said. “I let Keith Langford, a couple of times, go to the offensive glass and that’s how he started getting on fire and everything.
“We just have to keep fighting as a team.”
Conley said he also saw room for improvement in his teammates and that a weak transition defense hurt them the most.
“They started running the ball up the court fast,” Conley said. “As soon as the ball went off the rim, they would get the rebound and push it up the court fast.”
Despite the troubles, Conley said he and his teammates played well. He said there were a lot of moral victories for the team this season, but that the time for them has past.
“They feel good as far as making a big step as a team,” Conley said. “But I think me and the guys are just tired of getting so close as far as playing these big-time schools that are ranked.”
Conley said that close losses to tough opponents hurt even more than complete blowouts.
“I’d rather loose by a hundred points than lose by 9 or 10,” Conley said. “We’ve just got to keep playing.”