Mizzou ends slide Tigers rally for a 59-55 win over Murray St.

Monday, November 29, 2004

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Linas Kleiza knew it when he saw it. Jason Conley was fired up and would not let his team lose.

"He just took the game over," Kleiza said.

With the Tigers trailing by seven with 7:55 left, Conley scored eight consecutive points for the Tigers including a thunderous dunk that became a three-point play and drew Missouri within one. Jimmy McKinney took over from there, pushing the Tigers to a 59-55 win over Murray State on Sunday and breaking a three-game losing streak.

Conley, the only senior who sees playing time, finished with 11 points and McKinney had a team-high 12. Thomas Gardner added 10 points for the Tigers (3-3).

Conley said he saw an opportunity to turn the game around and grabbed it.

"There are certain guys that show their true leadership with words, and there are some that show it with action," Conley said. "I'm one of those guys that likes to go out and do it."

After a 12-2 run gave Murray State (2-1) a 46-39 lead with 7:55 left, Missouri responded with a 16-4 rally for a 55-50 lead. Coach Quin Snyder said Conley took over the team huddle after that.

"Jason Conley put his foot down and said, 'You know what? I'm not letting this happen,"' Snyder said. "Our guys in the huddle, they were all saying the right things and I'm glad that we were rewarded for our perseverance."

Conley started Missouri's rally with a 3-pointer from the left wing and a leaner. After Missouri tipped a shot into its own basket, Conley had his momentum-changing dunk and converted from the line to draw the Tigers within one point.

"Jason was the guy who really started making some plays," Snyder said.

McKinney took over after Conley was done, scoring Missouri's next seven points. His 3-pointer with 4:55 left gave Missouri the lead for good.

Trey Pearson hit a 3-pointer with 1:12 to go, bringing Murray State within two points, and Conley committed a turnover on Missouri's next possession. The Racers were unable to convert, however, and Missouri sealed its win with free throws from McKinney, Conley and Jason Horton.

McKinney said it was increased focus on sharing the ball that changed the game.

"It's a collective thing," McKinney said. "It wasn't just me and Jason; we were making the extra pass. We went away from that the last three games."

The Tigers, who struggled from the field in losses to Creighton and Houston in last week's Guardians Classic, hit six of their first eight shots to take a 17-5 lead. Murray State was 2-for-10 over that span, including 1-for-6 from long range.

Missouri struggled after a Linas Kleiza 3-pointer with 10:47 left in the first half, going almost eight minutes without a point until Kevin Young's layup with 3:02 to go.

The Racers went on a 13-0 run during the Tigers' slump and trailed 27-26 at the half. With the game tied at 39, the Racers scored seven straight points to frustrate the Tigers and fire Conley up.

Murray State coach Mick Cronin said his team faced a difficult challenge against a team looking to end its losing skid.

"We were trying to get everybody on the same page offensively in an environment where you're facing a team with their back against the wall," Cronin said. "Missouri dug it out late and you have to give them credit."

Or, more accurately, Conley and McKinney salvaged the victory late.

"You can talk all day," Conley said. "If you go out and show people that you're ready to lead and ready to make a stand, I think that's what's important."

The game was the first in Mizzou Arena since its name change. It was previously named Paige Sports Arena after Elizabeth Paige Laurie, the daughter of Missouri donors Bill and Nancy Laurie. The name change came Friday, after nationally televised allegations that Paige Laurie paid another student to complete her assignments at the University of Southern California.

The Laurie family donated $25 million toward the construction of the arena but agreed on Tuesday to drop its naming rights.

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