COLUMBIA, Mo. — It wasn’t pretty. Kim Anderson was quick to admit that.
But the Missouri basketball coach, following the Tigers’ 59-56 non-conference win over visiting Western Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, was proud of his young team for pulling out a much-needed victory.
“Not a pretty game by any means,” Anderson said. “I think coming off Monday night’s game our confidence probably was shook a little bit, but I’m extremely impressed with the way we hung in there and kind of picked each other up. I thought the difference in the game was obviously rebounding and defense. We got the stops when we needed to at the end.”
Coming off a 62-52 loss against visiting North Carolina Central on Monday night in which the Tigers shot just 25 percent from the field, Missouri (4-3) was able to lean on its defense and use a substantial rebounding advantage (44-30) to offset another tough shooting night (35.1 percent from the field, 20.8 percent from 3-point range) at Mizzou Arena.
“I think we’re getting some good shots,” Anderson said. “Not always. But if you go back and watch every possession that you have, we’ve gotten some good shots. Again tonight, we had some shots around the basket that we missed. This was a tough game for these guys. Monday was a huge disappointment to them and I think that lingers.
“The great thing is that it may have lingered offensively a little bit, especially early I thought it did, but defensively I thought we continued to play well and of course the rebounding. We always talk about when you’re struggling offensively you can always play good defense and you can always rebound. We did that at least.”
Freshman guard Frankie Hughes led the Tigers with a game-high 18 points, including three 3-pointers, with 14 points coming in the first half. Sophomore forward Kevin Puryear scored 12. Senior forward Russell Woods came up with 10 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips had six points, eight rebounds, five assists, five turnovers and two steals in 33 minutes.
“Probably a couple years ago Mizzou wouldn’t have won a close game,” said Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury, who previously coached against the Tigers while at Texas A&M. “So give them some credit. They found a way to win a close game. There’s no question this is Kim’s best team he’s had. He’s doing a really good job with them. When you win some close games like that it gives your kids a lot of confidence too. I know he was highly disappointed coming off that game Monday night. Unfortunately that happens. But their bunch bounced back and found a way to win a close game and that will give them some confidence.”
The Tigers didn’t make it easy on themselves.
Missouri led by eight points on a jumper from Puryear with 8:29 remaining and then extended the lead to nine, 57-48, on a free throw from Woods with 7:00 left but didn’t score again until Cullen VanLeer made two free throws with 1 second remaining.
Western Kentucky’s Pancake Thomas missed a 3-point attempt with 4 seconds remaining that would’ve given the Hilltoppers the lead.
“It was ugly, it was an ugly game, there’s no question about it, but to be able to come out on top I think at least gives us a step forward,” Anderson said.
Want more BlackAndGoldIllustrated.com coverage? Become a member today to get insider information, members-only forums, exclusive videos, team shop offers and ticket discounts. Click HERE to learn more and get a 7-day free trial.