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Off bench, Kleiza leads Tigers to win
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Linas Kleiza scored 13 point and had nine rebounds and nine assists as Missouri beat Oakland, Mich., 70-61 on Saturday.
Kleiza, the leading scorer for Missouri (4-3), came off the bench but said being dropped out of the starting five did not bother him.
"It doesn't frustrate me at all," he said. "It just gives me that extra motivation to push myself even harder."
Kleiza played 34 minutes and impressed Missouri coach Quin Snyder.
"I'm just really proud of Linas," Snyder said. "He wants to be a player and he wants to win, but he's finding out how he has to go about that now."
Snyder said Kleiza's performance against Oakland is what he has been looking for.
"This is a good blueprint for him," Snyder said. "He came out and he wasn't hunting his shot. He set the tone for himself and didn't press on his shots."
Jason Conley scored 18 points in 19 minutes for the Tigers, and Thomas Gardner scored 15 in the second half to finish with 18.
After the teams traded the lead in the opening minutes of the half, the Tigers' second 12-0 run of the game put them up for good. Gardner scored the first six points, followed by two 3-pointers from Conley. Kleiza had two assists and two rebounds in the run, which gave the Tigers a 50-38 lead with 13 minutes left. Oakland (0-5) got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
After watching Gardner struggle defensively early in the second half, Snyder pulled him out for a stretch. Gardner sparked Missouri's rally when he returned.
"I was as upset with Thomas as I've been," Snyder said. "He just lost focus in the second half defensively. I pulled him out and got into him a little bit, and he responded defensively."
Gardner said he was disappointed about his lack of first-half production, which hurt his focus early in the second half.
"I wasn't playing to my potential and it got me a little frustrated," Gardner said. "Coach took me out and said he was not going to let it slide.
"If you exert energy on the other team," he added, "the offense will come."
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said his team failed to take advantage of Missouri's offensive inconsistency. The Tigers scored just one basket in the final six minutes of the first half, but the Grizzlies still trailed 30-29 at halftime.
"When you're playing at a Missouri, all you can do is hope for a chance to win," Kampe said. "When you get it, you've got to seize the moment. We didn't seize the moment."
Cortney Scott scored 15 to lead the Grizzlies. Rawle Marshall, who entered the game leading the Mid-Continent Conference in scoring with a 21-point average, finished with 14. Kris Krzyminski added a career-high 14 points.
Even though his team has not won in the first two weeks of the season, Kampe said he is content with the Grizzlies' performance.
"I thought we played with good energy tonight," Kampe said. "We're 0-5, but I'm happy with my team."
Snyder, meanwhile, said he saw his team's defense improve against the Grizzlies, but not enough.
"It's still not consistent," he said. "If that's where our focus is, the offensive stuff ends up working out."