LINCOLN, Neb. - Missouri played a brilliant second half to overcome a lackluster start against Nebraska.
Still, the outcome of the game remained shrouded in uncertainty until the buzzer sounded and the Tigers won 56-53.
Missouri shot 54 percent in the second period including 4-of-9 from behind the 3-point line to earn its first road victory of the season. Tiger coach Quin Snyder was obviously pleased with the win but said he didn’t care if he got that monkey off of his back.
“I’ve had gorillas stacked on my back,” Snyder said. “Two years now, I’m all right. They can hang out there. We’ve just got to get stronger.”
The Tigers started the second half trading shots with the Cornhuskers but things really got going for them when they started to press about three minutes into the period.
The press kept Nebraska from scoring and Missouri converted a 3-pointer by Marshall Brown. On the next possession, Jason Horton drove the lane and tied the game at 33 with 15:50 remaining.
The lead went back and forth a few times until Linas Kleiza sunk a basket and the Tigers took the lead for good. Nebraska threatened a few times, but couldn’t complete a late comeback.
Down 56-53 with eight seconds left, Nebraska had a chance to tie but Marcus Neal, who was 0-for-3 from behind the arc, missed badly and Jason Conley corralled the ball with 0.6 seconds remaining. He was fouled, but the game was over.
Conley showed his excitement after the game by cheering as he left the locker room. He said he was surprised by his team’s second-half turnaround.
“The way we played in the first half, as many turnovers we had, we’re not supposed to win that game,” he said. “But we started talking more. We started playing defense. Most important thing was rebounds.”
In the first half, the Tigers did everything they could to make sure Nebraska took a big lead. It worked well as the Cornhuskers led 27-21.
Missouri started the game with 12 turnovers and three assists. The terrible ratio wasn’t caused by strong Nebraska defense, but by atrocious Missouri play.
The biggest mistakes came from Linas Kleiza, who traveled three times. On two consecutive possessions, Kleiza had control of the ball but moved his pivot-foot before putting the ball on the floor.
This prompted a quick reprimand from Snyder but, with about three minutes left to play, he made the same mistake again. That prompted a cheer from the Husker crowd.
“It was very frustrating,” Kleiza said. “You live and learn. It was one of those games.”
Turnovers weren’t Missouri’s only problem. Less than two minutes into the game, the Tigers missed three rebounds, allowing the Cornhuskers to take four shots in one possession. Missouri was fortunate Nebraska was unable to convert on any of the attempts.
The Tigers kept the game respectable with strong shooting as they hit 9-of-22. Kleiza negated some of his traveling mishaps by hitting all three of his shot attempts, including a 3-pointer with two minutes left in the half.
Snyder chose to try a little subtlety at half time to turn the Tigers around.
“I didn’t rant and rave at half time,” Snyder said. “Sometimes if you’re around them long enough, you can kind of see when they get it and when they need shock therapy.”