Mike Anderson didn't mind that his Missouri team committed 14 turnovers or missed 35 of 58 shots or waited until the last two minutes to put away an undermanned Iowa State team on Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.
All the coach cared about was that the 65-56 final score had his Tigers on top.
"There's no such thing as an ugly win," Anderson said. "I'll take it."
Every victory is valuable to Missouri now that it's in the final eight games of the regular season. The Tigers (18-6, 6-3 Big 12) have put themselves in position to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, but they don't have much margin for error.
Missouri went 12-3 against an underwhelming nonconference schedule and picked up only one victory over a team -- Old Dominion -- in the top 50 in the RPI ratings. Other than pulling out a narrow home victory over Kansas State in the Big 12 opener, most of the Tigers' success in league play has come against teams in the bottom half of the conference standings.
The team's schedule seems a bit back-loaded with home games against top-15 teams Texas and Kansas and road trips to Baylor, Nebraska, Kansas State and Iowa State, so it was imperative for Missouri to figure out a way to pull out a victory over the Cyclones on its home court.
The Tigers likely need to finish with a 9-7 record in Big 12 play -- which would leave them 21-10 overall -- to feel good about their NCAA Tournament chances. In Big 12 history, 17 teams have finished 9-7 in conference play, and 14 of those have made the NCAA Tournament. The only exceptions were Missouri in 2004, Colorado in 2006 and Kansas State last season.
But unlike those teams, this year's Tigers have the advantage of playing in a conference considered to be the strongest in the country, with Kansas atop the national polls; Kansas State in the top 10; Texas, despite its recent struggles, in the top 20; and Texas A&M and Baylor each spending time in the national polls.
Anderson doesn't want his team worrying about the NCAA Tournament at this point.
"I want our guys to get better and continue to improve and try to get more consistent in the things that we do," he said. "I want us to get back to playing the style of basketball that these guys were recruited to play and to trust one another. I think that's the key, trust each other on defense, offense."
MISSOURI 65, IOWA STATE 56: Senior guard J.T. Tiller scored 11 of his season-high 17 points in the final 12 minutes to help the Tigers pull out a victory on a night when they missed 35 of 58 shots and committed 14 turnovers.
Tiller hit a 3-pointer to put the Tigers (18-6, 6-3 Big 12) ahead 42-37 with 11:37 remaining, and three times he produced key scores when the Iowa State had climbed back within one in the last eight minutes.
Kim English dropped in a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:46 remaining to finally put some separation between Missouri and Iowa State. The Tigers led 59-53 and inched further ahead by hitting six of seven free throws in the final minute.
Iowa State (13-11, 2-7), which suited up only nine players and played only eight, shot 21-for-64 from the field and made only two of 14 3-point attempts. Leading scorer Craig Brackins was held to 12 points and missed of 11 of his 16 field-goal attempts.
--For Missouri, it was a complete reversal of form.
The Tigers lost at home against Texas A&M on Feb. 3, observing an end to their 32-game win streak in Mizzou Arena. But three days later on the road, where the Tigers sometimes can't influence the pace they want, they walloped Colorado 84-66.
The unusual one-two punch left Missouri 17-6 overall and 5-3 in the Big 12. The road win was just the second of the season for the Tigers, and came against a rival that extended Kansas into overtime in its previous game.
"You can't dwell on conference wins or losses too much," said Missouri guard Kim English. "It felt good to get out and play somebody else and perform pretty well."
Running the offense -- sometimes in transition and sometimes in half-court sets -- was how Missouri recovered from defeat. Against the Aggies, it often bombed from behind the arc, taking 28 of the 60 attempts they put up from 3-point range. Against the Buffs, drives to the basket resulted in good looks or free throws.
When Missouri runs that kind of attack it is most effective. Sometimes the Tigers connect from 3-point range, like in a win against Oklahoma State when they canned 17 treys. But cold outside shooting has afflicted them much of the season, so it makes more sense to get out and run, or look to penetrate in half-court.
"That's our brand," said Missouri coach Mike Anderson.
--The matchup against Colorado offered Missouri a chance to finally gain an advantage on the boards. Playing against the Big 12's worst rebounding team, the Tigers forged a 36-31 edge on the glass. They still rank just ninth in the league in rebounding with 36 boards on average. Their minus-2.3 rebounding margin ranks 11th, ahead of only Colorado (minus-6.5).
--The Feb. 3 loss against Texas A&M ended a 32-game home winning streak for Missouri, the second-longest in the nation behind Kansas (55). It also dropped Mike Anderson to 0-4 against the Aggies, the only Big 12 rival he has failed to beat since taking over as the Tigers coach.
ON THE SPOT: Missouri's 3-point shooting has been anything but dependable since Big 12 play began. The Tigers had reasonable success in wins against Kansas State and Texas Tech to open the conference schedule but struggled from beyond the arc over a three-game stretch that included losses to Oklahoma and Kansas. They hit 17 of 31 from long range to knock of Oklahoma State but missed 19 of 28 attempts in a loss to Texas A&M. More recently, an 8-for-18 performance against Colorado gave way to a 4-for-20 showing against Iowa State, and it almost cost them. Missouri has to rely on perimeter shooting because of an undersized frontcourt, but the Tigers still need to show better patience before firing away from beyond the arc.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Sometimes, when you're as good as your jump shot, when your jump shot's never very good, you're not going to be very good. Well, that's not who we are." -- Missouri coach Mike Anderson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The routine for Missouri had been to win impressively at home by speeding up opponents and taking them out of their comfort zone with good defense. Then, whenever the Tigers hit the road, they often failed to follow that blueprint and let opponents dictate terms. That wasn't the case in a Feb. 6 win at Colorado, and the Tigers need to gain confidence from that outing for future road appearances as Big 12 play winds into the second half of the season.
Missouri 95, Oklahoma State 80
Texas A&M 77, Missouri 74
Missouri 84, Colorado 66
Missouri 65, Iowa State 56
at Baylor, Saturday, Feb. 13
vs. Texas, Wednesday, Feb. 17
at Nebraska, Saturday, Feb. 20
vs. Colorado, Wednesday, Feb. 24
IN FOCUS: G J.T. Tiller didn't figure to be the shooter Missouri wanted taking a 3-point attempt in the final seconds of a 77-74 loss against Texas A&M on Feb. 3. Tiller was shooting just 14.8 percent (4 of 27) from behind the arc on the season, yet he launched a potential game-tying jumper. It bounded off the front of the iron. Still, coach Mike Anderson wasn't critical of the shot since Tiller helped lead the Tigers offensively. His 12-point performance marked the first time the senior had netted double figures since Jan. 2 against Georgia.
--Senior G J.T. Tiller put together perhaps his best performance of the season with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals Wednesday. The points were a season high, and he made his first 3-pointer in five games and fifth of the season after coming into the game shooting 14.3 percent from beyond the arc. But the majority of Tiller's success came by cutting hard to the basket and scrapping for loose balls. He's most effective when he's making himself a pest in the paint, not trying to be a jump-shooter.
--Sophomore F Laurence Bowers recorded his third double-double of the season with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds against Iowa State. He continues to be the Tigers' most productive forward, and the team needed his contributions with senior starter Keith Ramsey severely limited by an ankle injury. Bowers lacks bulk, but he's shown a knack for popping up around the ball and is able to rebound over other players because of his long arms and leaping ability.
--Senior G Zaire Taylor has gone scoreless the past two games after averaging 8.5 points over the first 22. He's been battling a stomach illness for almost a weak but has tried to play through it. Even when he doesn't score, Taylor finds ways to contribute. He had six rebounds, two steals and an assist in 22 minutes against Iowa State, and he has often been a steadying presence on the floor for the Tigers.