Missouri lived through Thomas Gardner and Jimmy McKinney in their first two conference games, both wins.
On Saturday the Tigers’ undefeated mark in the young league-campaign died with them. Each player had the ball in their hands down the stretch of a tied game.
By the time Chris Copeland’s final three-point shot splashed through Mizzou Arena’s west net, only .2 seconds remained until the Tigers suffered a 74-71 defeat to Colorado.
Like on Tuesday at Oklahoma, Jason Horton dribbled away time in a tied game, this one at 71, before handing the ball to McKinney who, like on Tuesday, had the ball poked away. He dove on it for a timeout, and it was after that Gardner got his chance, only to slip off the inbound pass, when he was called for travelling with 8.2 seconds left, setting up Copeland’s shot at the other end.
McKinney and Gardner scored 22 apiece, but it was Colorado’s Richard Roby who was the best player on the court down the stretch. Roby made four second-half 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 33, almost single-handedly keeping Colorado even with Missouri (9-5, 2-1) down the stretch. The performance was reminiscent of Ryan Bright, the Sam Houston State player who had a similar night that concluded in a similar end, as Roby made a step-back three from NBA range one time down and a contested toughie over Matt Lawrence the next.
“I just tried to be aggressive today,” Roby said. “(I) Came off two bad shooting games and I just wanted to keep my mind in the right spot.
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“My guys were just looking for me today and I came through.”
Gardner has been that guy for the Tigers, and successfully tried to be again most of the game against Colorado (11-3, 1-2), despite suffering a concussion in a collision with Marshall Brown during practice Thursday. But Gardner was whistled for dragging his foot as he fell to the floor after receiving a Horton pass from the sideline. He put the ball on the floor as he went down to a knee, maintaining his dribble. But the whistle had blown.
Not that Gardner agreed.
“Any player who plays basketball in a game situation like that, you always going to think you’re right in that situation,” he said. “For me, I thought it was kind of hard to call a travel when somebody was dribbling the ball.”
The referees made themselves known for much of the night, calling a combined 41 fouls. Missouri went to the line 18 more times than the Buffaloes. Both Colorado coach Ricardo Patton and Missouri’s Quin Snyder were asked, but declined to comment on the officiating.
In the most bizarre play of the evening, Marshall Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one and boarded his own miss as both teams remained on the lane, apparently thinking it was a double-bonus situation. As Brown put the ball on the floor the referees blew the play dead, discussed their apparent mishap of declaring it a two-shot trip, and awarded Missouri the ball. The Tigers capitalized with a three-pointer.
If the refs slept that call, Missouri certainly could be accused of napping at times on the defensive end. Colorado’s three-point shooting kept it in the game — Colorado made a season-high 13 from deep, on 29 attempts. Many came off second-chance opportunities. Among Colorado’s 31 rebounds, 18 were offensive, doubling the Tigers total on the offensive glass.
“They beat us the way that we thought they could, with the offensive boards and from the arc,” Snyder said.
“One of the things about their shooters are with (Andy) Osborn and Roby and Copeland, is their size. When you close out on them and you think you’re on them, and you’re not, because they’re bigger than people you’re used to playing and they’re longer, and you’ve just got to get even tighter on them. I think we just learned the hard way on that.”
Neither team led by more than six. The lead changed 14 times, with 16 ties were mixed in. Yet Missouri felt they could have taken over after going on a 7-0 run with under six minutes to play. Missouri first tied it at 60, then extended it to a five-point lead coming out of a timeout.
“I thought right there you know, they called the timeout, I’m saying right there let’s get a stop and put the game away,” Gardner said. “I hit a three, Jimmy makes a tough shot, and we break down on defense again. In the Big 12, against any team, when you break down like that that late in the game, any good team is going to make plays and get back in the game.”
Gardner, who was fouled on the forehead area in the second half, said he had some of the familiar feelings of headache, nausea and blurriness lingering from the concussion. He stayed in the game, though, only to see Colorado win for the first time in Columbia since 1997.
“We had to come here and play, there’s nothing special about that,” Patton said. “But to beat a team that is playing as well as Missouri is playing, to me in my mind that is special.”