Missouri wins Big 12 opener

Sunday, January 8, 2006

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- This is Jimmy McKinney's final Big 12 season, and against Oklahoma State he played as if there were no tomorrow.

The often erratic senior guard had a career-best 23 points and Thomas Gardner also had 23, both getting big baskets in the closing minutes of Missouri's 69-61 victory over Oklahoma State in a conference opener on Saturday night.

"It didn't matter who was guarding me, and it don't matter who's guarding me from here on out," McKinney said. "I'm just shooting because my time is running out.

"Hey, I'm going out with a bang and whatever happens, happens."

McKinney's point total was fueled by 15 points in the first half, and he had five points in the final 2:18 after struggling much of the second half. Gardner, who leads the conference with a 19.9-point average, scored 16 of his points in the second half.

Gardner was happy to have a running mate. McKinney, who averages 10.5 points, scored only two in the preconference tuneup against Louisiana-Monroe.

"Jimmy played his 'A' game. He was on his stuff," Gardner said. "He told us it was a new season and he needed to be a new player."

Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said he thought he would have seen a lot more games like this from McKinney, instead of only a couple of times a season.

"When I saw him as a young player, I thought he'd be a great player, and he's a good player," Sutton said. "I thought he'd have nights like this quite often, really, but he had a great night.

"And we had a freshman trying to cover him and he kept losing him."

Gardner missed a pair of bonus free throw opportunities in the final minute to help Oklahoma State crawl to four points down before finally hitting a pair with 20.7 seconds left that iced it, giving Missouri a 67-61 lead.

Gardner and McKinney, who each had three 3-pointers, were the only players in double figures for Missouri (8-4), which shot 53 percent to win its eighth in a row at home before a season-best crowd of 10,171.

The Tigers have won 12 of their last 13 at home, and coach Quin Snyder is 7-0 in conference home openers.

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