Kleiza says he will return to Missouri

Monday, February 28, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas -- At least one good thing for Missouri came out of the Tigers' latest loss.

Linas Kleiza, their star sophomore forward, said he's coming back next year -- and possibly for his senior season as well.

"That's not even a question," Kleiza said Saturday, after Texas beat Missouri 63-51. "I'm definitely back for another year, two more years."

Kleiza had been the target of speculation that he might declare early for the NBA draft or return to his native Lithuania and turn pro in Europe.

"I'm not even thinking about that right now," said Kleiza, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds Saturday but hit only four of 13 shots. "The one thing I'm thinking about right now is to get my body back."

Jason Conley led Missouri (14-14, 6-8), with 15 points against the Longhorns (19-8, 8-6).

Kenny Taylor scored 20 points for Texas, and Jason Klotz had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Longhorns made just two baskets over the final 13:48 of the first half and trailed 25-24 at the break. But they opened the second half with a 13-0 run and shot a season-high 70.6 percent -- 12-for-17 -- from the field after the break.

"I told them I didn't think it was possible we could shoot the ball any worse," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "You have to believe you're not going to shoot 18 percent again."

The Longhorns took the talk to heart.

"It was almost like we were waiting for them to crumble, kind of break there, and kind of let us take the game," said Klotz, who scored six points in Texas' 13-0 run and had nine points in the second half. "We did it by turning them over, playing defense and getting the ball down low to me and scoring."

The Tigers finished with 19 turnovers.

"We were ahead, then we turned it over and they're dunking it," said Missouri coach Quin Snyder. "It's hard to look good when you're giving them the ball. It's hard to defend when you're turning it over."

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