COLLEGE STATION, Texas — With his arms crossed in his lap, Linas Kleiza sat in the middle of the Missouri bench.
Solemn and silent, he would occasionally rest his chin on his fist to watch the game. He never removed his warm-up. He seldom stood up.
Finally, four minutes and 37 seconds into the second half of Missouri’s game against Texas A&M, Kleiza strolled to the scorer’s table to check in.
It was the first time Kleiza would see action in Saturday’s 91-63 loss at Reed Arena.
Kleiza, who was being disciplined for a technical foul he received after fouling out with 3:13 left against Kansas on Monday, said he knew he wouldn’t play in the first half of Saturday’s game.
“It was coach’s decision,” Klieza said. “I was totally behind it. It was my fault getting that technical foul.”
Quin Snyder informed the team of his decision not to play Kleiza before the game.
“It was a decision he felt he had to make for the team, I guess to send a message,” Missouri’s Marshall Brown said. “He keeps telling us not to talk to the refs and we continue to do it, so he had to do something about it.”
The Tigers (10-12, 2-7 Big 12 Conference) played well in Kleiza’s absence, leading 35-34 at halftime.
Missouri’s decision not to play Kleiza in the first half surprised Texas A&M’s Antoine Wright.
“I didn’t know what was going on over there,” Wright said. “I definitely didn’t expect that because he’s a great player, a great scorer. So I was just happy he wasn’t on the floor. I know what he’s capable of.”
Even Missouri’s Brian Dailey, a rarely used reserve, saw more playing time than Kleiza in the first half.
Dailey played two minutes late in the first half. He last saw action late in the second half of an 87-62 win against Montana on Dec. 11.
“We played a great first half, we defended and we got a lot off our defense – steals, dunks and all that – so that was big,” Kleiza said. “But in the second half we didn’t do the same thing.”
Missouri led by four points less than two minutes before Kleiza checked in, and less than two minutes after he checked in, the Tigers trailed by nine.
It only got worse from there as Missouri would trail by as much as 30 late in the game.
Once Kleiza checked in, he played until the game’s completion but made little impact. So instead of watching from the bench, he got to participate in the Tigers’ collapse.
Kleiza scored his first points at the free-throw line with 10:44 left and finished with seven points and one rebound.
His first field goal came with 24 seconds left.
“It is hard when you’re one of the leaders of the team and you sit on the bench for a half,” Kleiza said. “It’s hard to get in the game rhythm.”
Kleiza played 16 minutes. His previous low in minutes played this season was 21 against Arkansas and Gonzaga.
“Linas is an important part of our team,” Snyder said. “We need him to be more and more focused on keeping his attention on the team and not other things that are going on in the game.”