Tigers find out it's time to just play

There's a reason Missouri has had so much success in its past two games, and it has little to do with figuring out defenses or a new game plan. The plan actually is an old one, and it's one that has worked for the Tigers so many times before. Missouri has finally figured out they just have to go out and play.

Somewhere, it all got lost.

In between the calamity of Ricky Clemons, the suspicion surrounding coach Quin Snyder and lofty preseason expectations, the real secret to Missouri's success found itself at the bottom of the shuffle.

They just have to go out and play.

In between the mixing and matching of the noncoference season, the dismissal of disgruntled Randy Pulley, the loose shoulder of Linas Kleiza and the hole in Josh Kroenke's leg, the reason Missouri has played so well in the past four seasons seemed like a needle in a huge Hearnes Center haystack.

They just have to go out and play.

Forget about subbing players like side dishes at KFC. Enough worrying about the zone defenses. The inside-outside game? Stop forcing it like a telemarketer.

The way Missouri has played in its last two home wins shouldn't be so unfamiliar. It's the same way the Tigers played in their run to the Elite Eight two years ago, and it's the same way they went to the finals of the Big 12 Tournament a year ago.

They just have to go out and play.

"That's it, that's it, that's all we have to do" sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney said. "We just go out there and play. That's what we could have been doing the whole season, but now we figured it out."

The early part of the season, the Tigers showed more hesitation than a Fear Factor participant. Whether it was worrying about the zone, looking over their shoulders to see if someone was coming in for them or thinking too much about the game plan than the actual game, it obviously hurt them. The hurt reached a new high in the Dec. 30 loss to Belmont, but it really reached its peak on Feb. 7, when Missouri dropped below .500 in a 16-point loss to Nebraska.

Since then, it's all become simpler. Perhaps its because Pulley's dismissal and the injuries to Kleiza and Kroenke have taken away the hesitation about Snyder taking anyone out. That's obviously had an effect on Jason Conley, whose most recent two games have been his best since his debut on Dec. 21.

But you'd like to think there's a lot more to it. You'd like to think that when the Tigers got back from Lincoln, they looked at each other and decided that they can't lose again, and perhaps it was time to go back to the Colonel's original recipe for success.

"It's getting tight and we need wins, and I think guys are strapping their boots on and just playing," senior Rickey Paulding said.

And it's working. It's showing people that perhaps those preseason rankings should have been high. It's showing people that this team might still have a chance at a postseason run.

"I've always told you guys that I still have faith in this team, and it's showing now," McKinney said.

Of course, the thing about it is it will have to keep on showing, starting Wednesday, or else these past two games will be just another rare peak amongst the many valleys of this season.


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