Missouri captures its first Big 12 win

Sunday, January 11, 2004

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Arthur Johnson kept his brain engaged, but he let his body do the heavy lifting.

"I just stopped thinking so much," Missouri's senior center said. "I decided to quit worrying, and just play. It wasn't lack of confidence. I was just thinking too much about everything."

Johnson's trust in his instincts paid off in a solid game at both ends of the floor. He had 19 points, 12 rebounds and a key blocked shot in the struggling Tigers' 82-77 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.

"He's gotten to the point where he said, 'What the heck. Let me just go out there and play,"' Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "The one thing I want him to do is talk, because that puts his mind in the game on both ends."

Rickey Paulding added 16 points for Missouri (6-5, 1-1 Big 12), which won for just the second time in its last six games after being ranked as high as No. 3.

"It's obvious when you watch our team that we're not hitting on all cylinders all the time, and I don't think it's for a lack of want or will," Snyder said. There just isn't the continuity you'd like to see all the time."

That was apparent against the Aggies (7-5, 0-1), who dropped to 2-10 against Missouri and are 0-5 against the Tigers in Columbia.

Texas A&M trailed 71-58 with 4:46 to go, when Travon Bryant hit two free throws for Missouri, but the Aggies made it close with a late run.

Acie Law's 3-pointer got the Aggies within 76-71 with 1:04 left, and his basket with 14.6 seconds remaining cut the margin to 81-77.

After Missouri called time, Antoine Wright fouled the Tigers' Jimmy McKinney on the inbounds play.

McKinney, who finished with 12 points in his first start at off-guard, hit the first of his two free throws with 14.1 seconds left and Johnson blocked Wright's layup attempt with 3.8 seconds to go.

"It never got away from us," Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins said. "We knew they'd make their run, and we fought back and we got back in the game."

Junior college transfer Randy Pulley, who became eligible at the semester break, made his first start at the point for Missouri. He had four points, four assists and three turnovers in 35 minutes.

"He was not perfect tonight, but he is our most confident player with the ball," Snyder said. "He gets the ball up the court quicker and gets us into our transition offense, and he's also been solid on the ball defensively."

Kevin Turner led the Aggies with 14 points. Wright and Jesse King added 12 points each, Andy Slocum had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Leandro Garcia-Morales finished with 10 points.

Texas A&M led 42-41 on Turner's 3-point shot with 16:12 left in the game, but Missouri responded with a 20-6 run for a 61-48 lead with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.

Freshman Thomas Gardner started the Tigers' surge with a three-point play and later added a 3-pointer that made it 54-44 with 12:24 to go. Another freshman, Linas Kleiza, capped the run with four straight points.

Texas A&M missed six of its first seven shots in the game and trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half but stayed close with five 3-pointers and a 19-17 rebounding edge before the break.

Missouri led 27-17 on Paulding's 3-point play with just over five minutes left in the first half, but then didn't manage a field goal for the next 3 1/2 minutes.

The Aggies hit three 3-pointers in a 13-1 run that put them up 30-28 with 1:45 left, but Johnson scored two inside baskets down the stretch to put the Tigers up 34-31 at the half.

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