Conley gets confidence against Colorado

Jason Conley has known for quite some time that he can score. He's only had to be reminded every day that he won the NCAA scoring title two years ago at VMI. But for the better part of this season at Missouri, Conley has been fighting himself for confidence. Tuesday night, he definitely found it, and it helped him ignite a Missouri run to beat the Buffs.

An unfortunate injury to Josh Kroenke gave Jason Conley more playing time. More playing time gave Conley confidence.

And Conley's confidence vaulted a late run Tuesday night against Colorado, a run that separated the Tigers from the Buffaloes and gave Missouri a 77-65 win at Hearnes Center.

Conley was one of five Missouri players in double figures, and the Tigers provided just as much defense as offense, forcing 19 turnovers. Missouri, which had 14 steals, improved to 10-10 and 5-5 in the Big 12, and Sunday's home game against UNLV is the next step for the Tigers to save their season.

"This is the time to turn it on," said forward Travon Bryant, who led Missouri with 17 points. "What better time? When people write you off, you just want to go out there and play."

Conley scored two baskets in 40 seconds, which separated Missouri's 65-61 lead to 69-61, and Colorado was out of reach from there. Conley, who was averaging less than 10 minutes in Big 12 games, scored 12 points in 19 minutes. With Randy Pulley dismissed and Kroenke out after a freak leg injury in practice, Conley was Missouri's only shooting guard/small forward option off the bench.

"It's kind of pressure off my shoulders," Conley said. "When I was not in the game, I felt as soon as I get in the game, if I make a mistake, I'd have to come out."

Scoring points hadn't been mysterious to Conley, whose biggest claim to fame is winning the scoring title as a freshman at Virginia Military Institute. As he sat on the bench for most of Missouri's season, Conley's confidence diluted with bad defense and limited playing time.

Both have improved since, and it was evident in Conley's second straight 12-point game. Conley had two steals on Tuesday, but his biggest play occurred on one of his six rebounds. After giving Missouri the eight-point lead, he jumped on a rebound as it hit the floor and called time-out before a Colorado player jumped on him. That Colorado player just happened to be 7-foot, 270-pound center David Harrison, but Conley got up unfazed.

"I totally understand what coach means when when he puts me in the game (that) I have to make a defensive impact first, and as far as the offense, it will come," he said. "As I got comfortable and started to play defense more, it just came."

Outside of Conley's performance, the biggest surprise, and one of the reasons Missouri turned a 63-60 deficit into a win, was the Tigers' team defense. Missouri had 17 points off of Colorado's 19 turnovers. Rickey Paulding, who had 10 points, led the Tigers with seven steals.

"I really though Rickey guarded well," coach Quin Snyder said. "We talk about that being what is going to carry us, defending and rebounding."

Meanwhile, Harrison killed Colorado's chances at a comeback by making only 2-of-7 free throws in the last 6:30. In the last five minutes, Colorado only made 3-of-8 free throws and scored only five points. Missouri outscored the Buffaloes 17-5 in the last 5:20.


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