Missouri gets back on board

After a three-game losing streak, the worst being Tuesday's loss to tiny Belmont, Missouri responded emphatically Saturday with a 20-point win against Iowa.

If Missouri needed any motivation following Tuesday's loss to Belmont, its third in a row, coach Quin Snyder definitely made sure there was more than enough.

In the days leading up to Saturday's game with Iowa, Snyder worked the Tigers in two-a-days, put the newspaper clippings from the Belmont game in the locker room, changed the starting lineup, and for the worst, made the players run stairs over and over again.

"From the court all the way to the top," guard Jimmy McKinney said. "It was weird, but we had to do it."

It worked.

After days of running up and down the stairs at Hearnes Center, Missouri come out fired up and ran over the Hawkeyes 76-56.

There was a notion coming into the game that the Tigers had to "right the ship" after falling to .500 after the loss to Belmont. But for Missouri, the sense was they had never even pulled out the anchor.

"It's pulled now," McKinney said. "I can tell you that today, it's pulled now. A couple days ago, a couple weeks ago, a couple months ago, it wasn't pulled. It's pulled now, and that's the most important thing.

Iowa gave some the Tigers some help. The Hawkeyes sent the Tigers to the free-throw line 37 times and turned the ball over 15 times.

The key for the Tigers was a 12-point run in the second time, which extended Missouri's lead from 43-35 to 55-35 and put the game away. Missouri made three of four shots on that run and six of nine free throws, but Missouri center Arthur Johnson pointed to the five Iowa turnovers on that run.

"It wasn't the offense," Johnson said. "It all started with defense."

Perhaps the most staggering part of the 20-point win is that Johnson and Rickey Paulding combined to make only one field goal and score 11 points. Paulding shot 0-for-9, but he made seven of eight free throws.

"In Rickey's case, just by working to get shots and our team working to get him good shots, other people end up getting great looks," Snyder said. "And I thought Rickey took great shots, he just didn't make them all. So I was pleased with the way they stayed in it."

Instead, Travon Bryant and Linas Kleiza led the Tigers with 14 points and nine rebounds each.

Bryant and Kleiza combined for seven of the Tiger's first nine points, but Iowa led 11-9 after a little more than seven minutes. It would be the last lead the Hawkeyes would hold for the rest of the afternoon.

From there, Missouri went on an 13-point run, fueled by two 3-pointers from Josh Kroenke, which gave Missouri a 22-11 lead. But Iowa chomped at the lead bit by bit, and Missouri led only 31-26 at the half.

The lead swayed between three and eight until the Tigers' big second-half run. Kleiza made two straight baskets, and then Missouri scored eight of its next ten points on free throws.

For perhaps the first time this season, Snyder's half-court offense performed consistently and efficiently in the second half. On one possession late in the game, every Tiger touched the ball, and finally point guard Randy Pulley found Kleiza inside for an easy layup.

"Those are plays we work on every day," Snyder said. "We'll get better as we play more games together. That is what we've been looking for."

It was a relief for the Tigers, who could have lost their fourth in the row and dropped below .500 for the first time since Snyder's first game as Missouri coach.


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