McKinney makes his point in exhibition

An hour before tipoff, Missouri notified the press Randy Pulley would not be playing Monday night because of certification problems. No problem at all for the Tigers. Jimmy McKinney did what he finished the season doing, leading Missouri, and he certainly made his point Monday night that he can play that position for the Tigers as needed.

Missouri's season unofficially started Monday, but the Tigers began the game officially without their new point guard.

Randy Pulley did not play in Monday's exhibition game because Missouri hasn't certified his eligibility yet. Even with Pulley out, though, the Tigers were in fine hands with their old guard, Jimmy McKinney.

McKinney, who started the second half of last season at the point, had 12 points, seven assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes to lead No. 5 Missouri past the Inter Hoop All-Stars 85-76.

"If I'm going to get to the next level, or I'm going to be successful in this locker room with this group of guys, I've got to learn how to play that position," McKinney said.

After the extreme failure of the Ricky Clemons experiment last season, McKinney had become accustomed to playing the point guard, a position he rarely played before coming to Missouri. But this season, it appeared McKinney had relief in Pulley and freshman Spencer Laurie.

On Monday, there was no relief in sight. Pulley was on the bench and so was Laurie, whom Snyder is still thinking of redshirting this season. Like last year's game against Oklahoma State, the only point guard left was McKinney.

But this was different than that game in Stillwater, when Clemons was at home after Columbia police had arrested him and Josh Kroenke was on the bench with a knee injury. Rather than being forced into the point guard spot, McKinney had time to adjust to the position this summer.

"He's definitely come a long way," Rickey Paulding said. "He's definitely gotten more comfortable handling the ball and making the right decisions."

At the start of the scrimmage, it wasn't clear if any point guard could get the Tigers going. The Tigers only made two of their first seven shots, and Inter Hoop built an 11-5 lead a little more than five minutes into the game.

The game went back and forth in the first half, and the Tigers never led by more than seven and trailed by as much as five. They took a 39-35 lead into the half, hardly the exciting kind of performance many were looking forward to.

At the start of the second half, though, Missouri got it going, and it got it going in style. Paulding had a dunk less than a minute into the game to put the Tigers ahead 4-235, and then Jimmy McKinney had a reverse dunk on a fast break with 16:40 left to cap a 9-0 run to start the half.

Missouri continued to extend the lead 66-42 with Inter Hoop making only two field goals in the first ten minutes. With 8:53 left, McKinney stole the ball from Gintautus Vileita and then threw it off the backboard for an alley-oop to Paulding to give Missouri its biggest lead of the night at 73-44. It was a play McKinney said he'd do anywhere, not only in an exhibition game.

"If it's there," he said. "Oh yeah, I would definitely do it in Lawrence if it was there."

As the game wore down, Missouri's intensity faded and Inter Hoop was able to finish the game on a 17-2 run, much of that with McKinney on the bench. When he wasn't on the floor, Snyder had to make some interesting choices at point guard with his other two options on the bench.

He tried freshman Thomas Gardner, a natural shooting guard, and Josh Kroenke, who hadn't even played the point in practice.

"Coach Snyder kind of told me in shootaround, ‘Hey, you're probably going to be playing some point tonight because we're a little short on guys,'" Kroenke said. It was good to be out there; I had to think a little more than I'm used to."

Perhaps the most telling statistic, though, was McKinney's two turnovers compared to his seven assists.

"I don't know that he's out of position," Snyder said. "Have we established his position? I think he's a guard, and I think he's a really good one. He's becoming a great one."

Arthur Johnson had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Paulding had 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Travon Bryant had 10 points.


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