Tigers overcome late letdown against Buffs

Sunday, February 2, 2003

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri put it on cruise control and nearly paid the price.

Ricky Clemons had 23 points, four assists and five steals and the 25th-ranked Tigers avoided a late collapse for a 73-70 victory over Colorado on Saturday.

"I think our team has matured a lot this last week," coach Quin Snyder said. "The last five minutes, that's another lesson we need to continue to learn.

"We tried to run some clock and we just didn't execute as well as we needed to, and they ran it right at us."

Missouri (13-4, 4-2 Big 12) has won eight in a row against the Buffaloes (12-7, 2-4), seven of them under Snyder. The Tigers have won three of four overall heading into Monday night's game at rival Kansas.

Michel Morandais hit a 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left to cut the Missouri lead to 71-70. Missouri went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final half-minute, with Clemons and Jimmy McKinney hitting two apiece. Morandais' long 3-pointer banged off the back of the rim with 1 second left.

"He had a good look at it, it just didn't go in," coach Ricardo Patton said. "It was a good effort by all the guys."

Missouri won despite an off-game by Arthur Johnson, who was averaging nearly a double-double with 16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds. Johnson didn't get a rebound until early in the second half and was held to 10 points and five rebounds.

"They didn't do nothing, I just missed shots," Johnson said. "I missed a lot of easy shots."

Snyder said Johnson didn't have his usual work ethic.

"I didn't think A.J. was ready to go," Snyder said. "We didn't go to him early in the game like we have and I thought that was just a function of him not working hard enough.

"People are going to try not to let you throw it in there and you have to be more determined."

Clemons hit a 3-pointer from midcourt at the halftime buzzer to put Missouri ahead 37-35. He also scored 10 straight points for the Tigers in the second half to keep the lead in double digits.

Missouri was once down by as many as eight points. But Rickey Paulding had 21 points and nine rebounds, getting 11 of the points in a 16-2 run that appeared to put Missouri in control at 48-37 with 16:24 remaining. The spurt included two layups, a 3-pointer and two follow shots, the second after getting his own attempt blocked by Glean Eddy.

The game was a return to form for the junior guard, who averages 16.3 points. In the previous five games, he averaged 11 points and shot 32 percent.

"It's probably my best game all-around," Paulding said. "The coaches have been on me to get on the glass."

Colorado has lost three of four, the exception during that stretch a rare victory over Kansas on Jan. 22. Morandais had 18 points and Blair Wilson added 16 for the Buffaloes, who are 2-6 on the road.

Colorado center David Harrison did not start after drawing two technicals and charging after a Texas Tech player in a 66-56 loss on Wednesday, and had four points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes.

"I thought it might help him to see how the game was being called," Patton said. "I thought we started good with him sitting.

"I thought when he got in the game he was a little tentative, because he wants to do the right thing."

Missouri's 6-foot-10 reserve forward Jeffrey Ferguson, the tallest player on the team, began a two-game suspension for violating unspecified team rules. Missouri began the game with only eight scholarship players, including former walk-on guard Ryan Kiernan.

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