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NIT defeat abrupt end for Tigers

Players can now concentrate on their classwork and health.
Thursday, March 17, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:38 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

There are no more games this year. No more tournaments. No more road trips. The Missouri men’s basketball season has come to an abrupt end.

The Tigers still have plenty to keep themselves busy.

A 75-70 loss Tuesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament closed Missouri’s season. The Tigers fell to the DePaul Blue Demons at Mizzou Arena.

It was the second straight year Missouri lost in the first round of the NIT. They lost to Michigan at Michigan in 2004. The Wolverines went on to become NIT champions.

It was tough for the Tigers to accept the defeat and end a season laden with hardships. It was toughest for Jason Conley, who had to face the end of his college career.

“I’m just still trying to feel the pain of it being over,” Conley said after the loss. “It’s been a good run.”

Conley, who graduated in December, has no classes or school to worry about. So, he’s going to use his time off to heal emotionally and physically.

“I’m still kind of hurting from the Texas game when I fell on my back,” Conley said.

Linas Kleiza, a sophomore forward, said he hoped he could have given seniors Conley and Brian Dailey a better send-off. But he said he refuses to dwell on the past.

“What can we do?” Kleiza said. “We wanted to end it on a more positive note, especially for our senior guys, but it didn’t happen.

“We’ve just got to look towards next year. Take this bad feeling and transform.”

Missouri coach Quin Snyder also wished the Tigers could have done more for Conley.

“I just know Jason’s been a terrific ambassador for our entire program,” Snyder said. “It was a pleasure to coach him and I told that to our team. You wanted to send him out on a better note because he’s a terrific young man.”

The rest of the Tigers have to get back to their studies to make up for lost time. Junior guard Jimmy McKinney said it was a perfect time for him and his teammates to get their schoolwork back on track.

“I think we’re just going to relax and start thinking about school,” McKinney said. “We’ve got a lot of make-ups that we missed and everything.”

Missouri coach Quin Snyder said he hadn’t had time to think about what to do next. Snyder said he isn’t taking a break even though he may need one as much as any of his players.

Instead, he’s going to start looking back over the season with assistant coaches Melvin Watkins and Jeff Meyer. Snyder said he is going to see what the team did wrong and how they can improve. He didn’t know if the Tigers would continue to practice during the NCAA and NIT tournaments.

“It’s hard for me right now to sit in front of you, after that game, and kind of analyze the whole season and talk about the offseason,” Snyder said. “It’s something we’ll get together as a staff and really talk about. Look at the areas where we think we need the most work and what we can do to get that work done.”


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