Missouri grinds out Kansas State

With Linus Kleiza out and Randy Pulley suspended, it seemed the worst was still to come against Kansas State. But Missouri made some timely 3-pointers in the second half and came out on top.

With the threat of again falling below .500 looming in the rafter of the Hearnes Center, the Tigers found a good remedy after its crushing loss Wednesday at Colorado.

A team playing worse than them.

Kansas State stumbled into Saturday's game on a five-game road losing streak. And in a game less exciting than the latest Ben and J-Lo movie, Missouri used some timely defense and every more timely 3-point shooting to win 62-53 and hand the Wildcats their sixth straight road loss.

"It was a very physical game with a lot of fouls called," Missouri forward Rickey Paulding said. Our guys got banged up a little bit, but we gritted it out and got a win."

Missouri improved to 9-8 and 4-3 in the Big 12 Conference with a Monday night matchup against Kansas next.

With point guard Randy Pulley suspended and forward Linus Kleiza out with a dislocated shoulder, the Tigers grinded out the win with defense in the second half. Kansas State shot only 8-of-24 in the half, and the Wildcats finished with only one more made field goal, 17, than turnovers, 16.

"It was a weird game, but I think it was good for us," guard Jimmy McKinney said. "We played great on the defensive end, and it was really frustrating too at the end when we made mental breakdowns and they started getting into the game."

Missouri pulled away an 11-1 run midway through the second half, highlighted by three 3-pointers and three Kansas State turnovers. Missouri, which made only 1-of-11 3-pointers in the first half, made 6-of-11 in the second half. With Kansas State in a 2-3 zone, Missouri's outside shooters had no choice but to shoot, and the Tigers went more than 16 minutes with a 2-point basket.

"They were collapsing on the big guys, so it was very hard (to get it inside)," McKinney said. "So we had to continue to shoot the ball and hope we knock down shots. If we continue to shoot the ball, we're going to knock down shots."

Thomas Gardner shot 5-for-11 and made 3-of-6 3-pointers to lead the Tigers with 16 points. Gardner, who started for the second straight game, scored more than 10 points for the third straight game.

"He made some jump shots, but more important, he's just a competitor," coach Quin Snyder said. "The emotion he shows, he's just a catalyst."

With 13 points, Arthur Johnson moved to 10th all-time in scoring with 1500 points and his seven rebounds moved him to second all-time with 986. McKinney had 10 points, eight of them in the first half.

Missouri led by as much as nine points in the first half, but when the outside shooters went cold, so did Missouri's offense. Kansas State fought its way back, and then cut the lead to 27-25 on Jarrett Hart's jumper at the buzzer.

"I thought we quick-shot in the first half," Snyder said. "We're going to see zone, that's the book on us, so we're going to have open looks. You gotta be confident enough to take shots, but you can't get baited into quick shooting."

Missouri jumped out to a 34-27 second-half lead, but the Wildcats again came back and tied it at 34. That's when Missouri made another run, which started with a 3-pointer from Josh Kroenke. Then came a long-awaited 3-pointer from Jason Conley, who had missed his last 18 3-pointers, dating back to his debut against UNC-Greensboro on Dec. 19.

"The guys were more excited for Jason than I think Jason was to see the ball go in the basket," Snyder said.

Gardner and Paulding both left the game for brief moments in the game. Gardner dislocated a finger, and Snyder said he will most likely have to wear a splint. Paulding went down in the second half after trying to drive to the basket. He stayed on the ground for about a minute before coming out, but he was back in the game less than a minute later. He finished with nine points.


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