Snyder targets defensive effort as key to victory

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:09 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

All season long Missouri coach Quin Snyder urged his players to create a defensive identity.

It’s better late than never.

Snyder said he finally saw the Tigers come together and play the way he wanted them to play all season.

The self-actualization came just in time. It was the final home game of the season against Kansas. A loss would have crushed almost any hopes of a postseason tournament.

Instead, the Tigers defeated No. 7 Kansas 72-68 on Sunday at Mizzou Arena and put themselves in great position to make the NIT. One victory at the Big 12 Conference Tournament makes the Tigers eligible for the NIT. Snyder said it was a great victory for many reasons but even better because of the way the team won.

0“We’ve talked all year long about having to have a defensive identity,” Snyder said. “I think that’s where we won the game.”

Snyder said the game was important for the players’ confidence and the future of the program. The Tigers’ season was an emotional roller coaster. The team toppled three ranked teams but suffered long losing streaks and had an abysmal road record. Snyder said it was impressive that his players played as well as they did for 40 minutes.

Another thing Snyder said he was impressed with was the crowd. He said the support was a good indication the Tigers were doing things right.

“To see our crowd today was just unbelievable,” Snyder said after the Kansas game. “The students were phenomenal but the entire building. To me that says a lot about what our guys are doing.”

The next step for Missouri is to continue building the program on the backs of this young team.

“I think we’ve got some character on our team,” Snyder said. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’re making progress. Unfortunately, in order to make that progress you end up going through a lot of adversity.”

The regular season was tough for the Tigers, but the Big 12 Tournament is not going to be any easier, Snyder said it is important for Missouri to play well in the tournament in order to continue learning.

Senior guard Jason Conley said he is confident he and his teammates will do well in the conference tournament and even have a chance to win the whole thing. If they did, Conley would realize his goal of making it to the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve shown all season that we can play with good teams,” Conley said. “We just have to keep it going, that’s all it is. As long as we stay together as a team and fight like we did today, I think we’ll be fine.”

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