Tigers grab first Big 12 win

Thursday, January 25, 2007
Missouri guard Keon Lawrence, right, slipped past Colorado forward Marcus King-Stockton for a basket. (David Zalubowski ~ Associated Press)

Mizzou improved to 1-4 in Big 12 play with a 79-65 victory at Colorado.

BOULDER, Colo. -- Matt Lawrence knew better than to think Colorado would simply mail in a performance with Buffaloes coach Ricardo Patton stepping down at the end of the season.

Lawrence and the Missouri Tigers went through a similar situation last year with Quin Snyder -- who resigned midway through the season -- and said a coach on his way out makes a team play that much harder.

"You want to keep playing for him and give him a memorable season," Lawrence said after Missouri ended a four-game Big 12 Conference losing streak in a 79-65 win over Colorado on Wednesday night. "You've got to feel for them, knowing that coach isn't going to be around next year. They have heart. They kept going after it."

But the Tigers were on a mission of their own -- picking up first-year coach Mike Anderson's first Big 12 Conference victory.

The Tigers (12-6, 1-4 Big 12) also broke a 12-game road losing streak. They hadn't won away from Mizzou Arena since Jan. 10, 2006, at Oklahoma.

Lawrence and Stefhon Hannah each scored 14 points. Freshman J.T. Tiller came off the bench to tie a career high with 12 points and Keon Lawrence added 10.

"I thought it was a good display of team basketball," Anderson said. "We were sharing the basketball."

The Buffaloes (5-11, 1-5) have now lost five of their last six games. The team was 1-for-15 from 3-point range.

When asked what he'd do if he was coach, Richard Roby had an answer at the ready.

"I think I would try to concentrate at getting guys that can shoot the ball, good looks at the basket," said Roby, who finished with 11 points and moved into 14th place on Colorado's all-time scoring list. "This is a very tough loss."

Anderson feels for Patton. He's considers Patton a good friend and the two talked before the game.

"He's a tremendous coach," Anderson said. "To me it's a great testament to Ricardo and his coaching ability that his kids continue to scrap and play hard [at the end]. They will not quit and go away."

After Colorado pulled to within four late in the first half, the Tigers went on a 27-12 run to put the game away and improve to 12-6 for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

"We're starting to put it together," said Marshall Brown, whose team won in Boulder for the first time since 2002. "We're sharing the ball and making shots."

Lawrence found himself in an unusual situation Wednesday night -- open. Lawrence typically draws a crowd around the 3-point arc, but found room against Colorado's defense, finishing 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

"My teammates screened for me and not only did it get me open, but them open as well," Lawrence said.

Tiller had the game of his young career. The defensive specialist hit five of eight shots to provide a spark. However, he still won't consider himself an offensive threat.

"Defense first," he said. "Always defense first."

Colorado was led in scoring for the third straight game by Xavier Silas, who finished with 16 points, and Jeremy Williams contributed 15 points.

Patton expected his young players to take their lumps this season. The Buffaloes have four freshmen playing significant minutes.

"I think all young guys coming into a league like the Big 12 typically struggle their first year shooting the basketball, because defenses are just much better," Patton said. "Guys are bigger and stronger that are guarding you, maybe more experience. I think that's pretty typical of young guys coming into the league."

Anderson doesn't like to see Patton's team struggling in his final season.

"It's a tough situation," Anderson said. "He's done a tremendous job."

Creighton 66,Missouri St. 62

Nate Funk scored 21 points, including a basket with less than a minute to go, to lead visiting Creighton.

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