Tigers throw KU lesson onto the pile

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri's strategy for dealing with a crushing defeat in the Hearnes Center finale is similar to that after other disappointments in a confounding season.

Coach Quin Snyder wants players to learn from the mistakes in an 84-82 loss to archrival Kansas on Sunday, and then move on because the Tigers need to get ready for the Big 12 tournament. The Tigers (15-12, 9-7 Big 12) have the sixth seed and probably need to make a splash in order to make the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight year.

"I told them I'm not ready to shed tears and say goodbye," Snyder said. "We're still playing, and until somebody tells me we're not we're going to try to get better.

"I think we can be better."

Missouri opens the tournament against last-place Texas A&M (7-20, 0-16), a team the Tigers beat 82-77 Jan. 10 at home, on Thursday night in Dallas. A win would earn a rematch against Kansas (20-7, 12-4) in the second round on Friday.

The players are concentrating on the first game, while keeping in mind they didn't quit when they were 9-10 on Feb. 7. Missouri won six in a row before losing at Texas Tech and to the Jayhawks in the last two regular-season games.

"There's a lot of times during the regular season we could have just died off, but we kept fighting," said center Arthur Johnson, who had a career-high 37 points against Kansas. "Now we've got another chance in the postseason.

"We've got to make the best of it, because nobody wants their season to end."

Guard Jason Conley said he won't let his sub-par performance against Kansas linger. Conley's steal and dunk put Missouri ahead with 49 seconds to go, but he also was 4-for-13 and missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

"I had one of those days when I was off, but I'm a shooter and I don't stop," Conley said. "If I miss 10 in a row I'm going to keep shooting the ball.

"The guys on the team have full confidence in me if I do miss five in a row or something like that."

Snyder's not sure what it'll take for the Tigers to make the NCAAs, although he knows somebody, somewhere, is eager to tell him.

"I'm sure I can turn on the TV and find 50 different opinions on what we need to do," Snyder said. "I heard two weeks ago that we were in."

Snyder believes the Tigers' tough schedule, ranked in the top 10 in the country, is a strong selling point. Although they tumbled from the No. 3 ranking in mid-December, there were close games to Big Ten champion Illinois, co-Conference USA champion Memphis, Gonzaga, and Texas along with Kansas.

"I feel like we belong in that group and we would represent ourselves very well in the tournament," Snyder said. "Whether or not people decide we have the requisite requirements, I don't know.

"I'd rather not speculate, I'd rather just do what we can do to win, and the more we win, the easier we make it."

One way Missouri can make it easier is by returning to a team game instead of just taking jump shots, which happened too often against Kansas. The Tigers also would be well-advised to keep getting the ball to Johnson, the preseason Big 12 player of the year who's finally living up to that billing with averages of 21 points and eight rebounds the last eight games.

"I was making sure when I brought the ball down the court I was calling his number," guard Jimmy McKinney said. "The big fellow was just in a zone. He's been a zone for the past month."

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