Tigers claw past Coppin St.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003
Missouri's Arthur Johnson, right, and Thomas Gardner, left, celebrate after Gardner was fouled after a basket Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003, during the second half of their 70-61 victory over Coppin State in Columbia, Mo.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri coach Quin Snyder hopes his Tigers will stop thinking about the polls.

The fourth-ranked Tigers survived their second straight scare, getting 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks from Travon Bryant in a 70-61 comeback victory over Coppin State on Tuesday night. They won their opener at Oakland (Mich.) by five points Saturday.

"We're not there," Snyder said. "We're certainly not the number-whatever team we are."

The Tigers (2-0) have won 29 straight home openers since losing to Southern Methodist on Dec. 1, 1973. They were 14-1 in the Hearnes Center last season and won this one despite allowing a 14-0 run in the first half.

"It's like anything you do," Bryant said. "You continue to work on a math problem and you're going to get it right, and that's what we're going to continue to do."

Arthur Johnson added 14 points and nine rebounds for Missouri, which was frustrated throughout by a zone defense, committed 19 turnovers and got an off-game from preseason All-America selection Rickey Paulding. He had seven points and seven turnovers.

"Our guys are in there going, 'Why didn't I make that play? Why couldn't I deliver that ball? Why did I miss that chippy?"' Snyder said. "Sometimes, I think early in the year you have an expectation about how things are going to go, and you need to play."

Paulding and Johnson, Missouri's senior leaders, were targeted by the Coppin State defense.

"I wasn't aggressive enough," Paulding said. "I think my turnovers were just being careless with the ball and not really being strong."

The Tigers trailed Coppin State (2-5) by eight points in the first half and seven after the break.

"I just think we could have gotten away with this one," guard Nicholas King said. "We lost that game ourselves."

King scored 25 points and hit five 3-pointers for Coppin State after entering with an 8.5-point average. The losers, who also got 12 points from Jimmy Boykin, were 11-for-22 from 3-point range.

"We're kind of a jump-shooting team," King said. "If it was there, then we were taking it, and if not we had ball movement."

A pair of free throws by Bryant put Missouri ahead to stay at 50-49 with 10:53 remaining. But the game wasn't secured until the Tigers scored nine points in a row for a 67-57 lead with 3:40 to go. The last five points came from freshman Thomas Gardner.

Bryant had 10 points in the second half to lead Missouri back.

"I took Travon out of the game early in the second half because I didn't see fire," Snyder said. "He was great, he really responded."

King hit two straight 3-pointers at the end of Coppin State's 14-0 run in the first half, which produced a 32-24 lead. Missouri was scoreless for 3 1/2 minutes before Paulding connected in the lane with 1:14 to go, and Linus Kleiza scored on a putback at the buzzer to cut the gap to four points.

Paulding had six of Missouri's 14 turnovers in the half. Missouri also had 14 turnovers in the first half of the opener at Oakland.

"I did watch the Oakland game and I understand what they had to do," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "We tried to put pressure in the front and in the passing lanes and I think my kids did a pretty good job especially in the first half."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: