Tigers turn past Coppin St.

For the second consecutive game, Missouri had more than a problem against a pressure defense from a mid-major opponent. But once again, the Tigers found a way to get past all of their turnovers and get by.

For a while Tuesday night, it seemed Missouri might turn over the game and its top-five ranking to Coppin State.

The certainly had no problem turning the ball over to the Eagles.

A Josh Kroenke pass to no goes one out of bounds. Kevin Young sets a blatant moving screen. Arthur Johnson travels. Rickey Paulding hands the ball to Coppin State defenders again and again.

It wasn't pretty. But in the end, Missouri again got away with it.

The Tigers rebounded from a turnover-laden first half and a six-point halftime deficit for a 70-61 win at Hearnes Center.

For the second consecutive game, No. 4 Missouri (2-0) narrowly beat a mid-major contender. The Tigers beat Oakland 90-85 in their opener Saturday night.

"We're certainly not the number-whatever team we are," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "We can quit looking at the ratings and start looking at us. "I'm just realistic about the fact that our team needs to get better. I think our guys aren't there. I love them; they're a great group. I believe in them."

Paulding, Missouri's preseason All-American senior, had only seven points to match his seven turnovers. He shot 3-for-7 and made only one of his four 3-point attempts.

Against Coppin State's 2-3 zone, Missouri struggled to get the ball inside to Johnson, who finished with 14 points, but few of those points actually came from the post. McKinney, Missouri's point guard, struggled to find people while double-teamed in the zone, and he finished with only one assist.

Missouri had 19 turnovers in the game, 14 in the first half, when Coppin State took a six-point lead.

"Obviously, the saw our Oakland game and wanted to make us make decisions," Snyder said. "We really didn't handle it well, especially early in the game.

"Two games a row now, we've had 14 turnovers at halftime. Then something happens at halftime. If we play the first half like we play the second half, then we're in single digit turnovers, and you'd say we handled the ball well."

Travon Bryant, whom Snyder played for only eight minutes in the first half and benched a minute into second half because of Bryant's intensity, came out later in the second half to lead the Tigers past the Eagles (2-5). He scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half, even after Coppin State's Darron Bradley hit him in the face with 10 minutes left.Bryant also had six rebounds, three blocks, and perhaps most important, only one turnover.

"The frustration of the game, me getting punched in the face by a guy, a lot of things got me going," Bryant said. "I just went out there and played and forgot about everything."

After Snyder benched him in the second half for Kleiza, Bryant remembered a conversation he had with his mom earlier Tuesday.

"She said, ‘Get out there and play. Stop worrying about everything,'" Bryant said. "That's what I ended up doing and went out and played with a lot of emotion."

In the first half, Missouri never took a lead bigger than the 24-18 margin it had with 4:47 left in the half. That's when Coppin State scored 12 consecutive points in the next three minutes, capitalizing on four Missouri turnovers, two from the hands of Paulding.

"I struggled a bit with the turnovers, just not being strong with the ball," Paulding said. "The zone was a different look for us, and I guess I need more work with dealing with the zone."

The Eagles continued to make tough 3-pointers, forcing the Missouri defense farther and farther away from the basket. The Eagles made 7-of-12 3-pointers in the first half and 11-of-22 in the game.

"When a team shoots the ball like that, there's not much you can do," McKinney said.

The Eagles led 34-28 at the half, and built a 45-42 lead early in the second half. Linus Kleiza, the Tigers' emotional power forward, sparked Missouri by breaking a double team on the wing and driving for a dunk.

"I just saw a wide open lane, so I just took it hard," Kleiza said.

It wasn't too easy for the Tigers from there, though. The teams traded leads, and Coppin State had the lead as late as 11:29 left in the half, when the Eagles led 49-48. Missouri finally broke free with a 9-point run that put the Tigers ahead 67-56 with 3:40 left.

The shots the Eagles were making earlier didn't fall, and Missouri took advantage. Freshman Thomas Gardner made an impressive reverse while Coppin State's Chad Yates fouled him. Gardner finished with eight points.

The atmosphere in the locker room afterward was almost as if the Tigers had lost, not surprising considering their performance in the first two games of the season. With Tuesday's game at home, Missouri was definitely looking for better.

"We're a better team than we showed tonight," McKinney said.


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