Tigers outlast NBDL's Altitude

Missouri got a couple scares in its exhibition game against the Asheville Altitude Tuesday night, one from Rickey Paulding and another from Jimmy McKinney. Both were OK in the end, and McKinney led the Tigers past the NBDL team.

Tiger fans can rest east. Rickey Paulding is OK.

Paulding left midway through the second half Tuesday night, but he suffered only a sprained left ankle. He was only one of several Tigers banged up in the game against the NBDL's Asheville Altitude, but No. 5 Missouri used a strong second half to hobble to a 74-60 win.

"That was a great game for us to play," Missouri coach Snyder said. "They have not been together very long, but you can still see the quality of players that were out there on the floor. I thought that was a great challenge for our guys."

Against a team that featured former Arkansas star Kareem Reid and former St. John's star Levar Postell, Missouri found itself down as much as nine early one and five early in the second half. But the Tigers fought back to trail only 47-46 with nine minutes lefy, and then a trio of Tigers helped them pull away.

Jimmy McKinney, Linus Kleiza and Josh Kroenke combined for the next 10 Missouri points to go ahead 61-53, and Missouri didn't let the Altitude get closer than five points from then on.

After McKinney hit a 3-pointer, Kleiza made a 3-pointer of his own and then hit a shot while fouled on the next possession. Kleiza, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, missed the free throw, but Kroenke hit a deep 2-pointer on the next possession to give the Tigers a 56-49 lead.

"Linus is very emotional," Kroenke said. "Sometimes you have to calm him, because he gets outside himself a little bit. When he's out there playing like he was tonight, he's a great player."

McKinney finished with a team-high 15 points, four assists and three steals.

"I felt like Jimmy McKinney controlled the game," Snyder said. "You could see it in his eyes. He's a heck of a player.

"Jimmy is a point guard and a playmaker. He has always been a point guard, it was just Floyd Irons had some quick guys (at Vashon, McKinney's high school)."

He did have a scary moment though late in the second half. He tried to go through two Altitude players in the lane, and he landed rough on the floor, falling on the top half of the body. It brought back memories of the Tigers' first exhibition last season, when McKinney suffered a broken frontal sinus.

"I was stunned there for a minute, that's why I laid there," McKinney said. "The first exhibition game I had in my college career, that was a really scary moment for me. That was in the back of my head, but once I got up and I was OK, I just shook it off."

Once again, Randy Pulley was out of the lineup because Missouri hasn't certified his eligibility yet, so McKinney was the main man at point guard. And more and more, it's looking like he's up to the job.

"I don't know yet," McKinney said. "It's coming. It's coming, because I'm fighting it every day, because I'm trying to get better at it. Once I get it, it's going to be a great feeling."

Early on, everyone struggled for the Tigers. Playing against a team of former college stars and even some former NBA players, Missouri had trouble with the Asheville's intensity on the ball and its several defensive looks.

Paulding had to work for every shot he got, and he worked against Postell, who also had a 3-year stint with the Knicks. He finished with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, including 0-for-3 on 3-pointers.

"I saw a couple of different defenses," Paulding said. "A lot of guys were trying to take different things away from me. It's just things I had to adjust to."

The Altitude jumped to a 16-7 lead, and it looked like the Tigers might have been playing a team out of its league. Missouri missed several open jump shots and forced several others, and the Tigers turned the ball over six times in the first eight minutes.

"We had to make some adjustments here and there," Kroenke said. "We got a lot of open looks to start off. I was open right off the bat a couple times, but I wasn't ready to shoot. It seems like there's a lid on the basket for us sometimes, and we really fought through it."

Missouri fought back, pulling to 23-21 with less than five minutes left and then closing to 30-29 at the half. Arthur Johnson had a fast-break dunk, and Travon Bryant his two important 3-pointers. Missouri also started playing better defensively, forcing four turnovers in the final four minutes of the half.

"When we were really having a hard time making a shot, I thought that forced us to dig in even more defensively," Snyder said.

Johnson finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Bryant finished with 13 and three.

Missouri opens the season Nov. 29 at Oakland University in Detroit.

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