Missouri brought back to earth by Iowa

Monday, December 17, 2001

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It might have been a case of too-fast, too-soon for Missouri.

Coach Quin Snyder never believed his young team, which has three sophomore starters, deserved the No. 2 ranking. After a 9-0 start, the Tigers' inexperience finally showed up in a humbling 83-65 loss to No. 15 Iowa Saturday night.

"This is kind of a news flash," Snyder said. "We have eight sophomores and freshmen and this is what happens to young teams.

"That's not an excuse, that's a reality of who we are."

The point guard, Wesley Stokes, is a sophomore starting for the first time. Inside players Travon Bryant and Arthur Johnson are sophomores and the top reserves are sophomore Rickey Paulding and freshman Najeeb Echols.

The funny thing is, Missouri's most experienced players had the toughest time against Iowa, which avenged a one-point loss in the Guardians Classic Nov. 21 in Kansas City.

Junior Kareem Rush, who leads the Big 12 with a 20.2-point average, was 4-for-18 and scored almost all of his 14 points in garbage time. Snyder said Iowa exploited Rush's tendency to dribble first and shoot later.

"They scouted him," Snyder said. "They know he puts it down and they converge on him."

Earlier struggles

Rush also struggled in the earlier game against Iowa, scoring 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting. That game came a day after he broke his nose, though.

"A butt-whipping like we got tonight, there's a lot of things we can learn," Rush said. "We're going to watch a lot of tape and I can't really tell you what we can improve on because there's so many things we need to work on."

Guard Clarence Gilbert is the lone senior on the team and his free throw with eight-tenths of a second left provided the winning point in the first meeting. He was 1-for-11 in the rematch and had four points, 15 below his average.

"It hurts me extremely," Gilbert said. "It hurts me all over."

That's what Snyder wanted to hear after absorbing perhaps the most stinging loss in his three-year career, and in front of a standing-room crowd announced at 13,545 but probably closer to 15,000.

Worst since 1994

It's the worst home loss for the Tigers from a point-spread standpoint since a 94-71 setback to Arkansas Dec. 3, 1994. They had been 5-0 at home this season and winning by an average margin of 35 points, although against lesser competition.

It's of little consolation to Snyder that Missouri (9-1) has beaten two ranked teams, also knocking off Alabama in the Guardians Classic.

"When you look up at the score in your home gym and you see you're down 20 in front of your home fans and you have to swallow that, hopefully it leaves a pit in your stomach," Snyder said. "That's a motivation to fix some of the things that you're not doing right."

Missouri had a nine-day break before facing Iowa (9-3), due to final exams, and has a week to think about it before meeting No. 10 Illinois in St. Louis Saturday. Players vow things will be different and that they'll grow from this experience.

"You have to," Gilbert said. "If you don't, it'll happen again. So what you have to do is move on, make some adjustments and try to get better from it."

Iowa has won five of seven since blowing an 11-point lead in the final 2:15 against Missouri last month. The only stinker was a 78-76 upset at Northern Iowa, with the other loss to top-ranked Duke.

In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have beaten Iowa State, Drake and Missouri by an average of 28 points. Iowa was particularly interested in getting back at the Tigers and got big games from Luke Recker and Reggie Evans.

Evans had 15 points and 17 rebounds, his fifth straight double-double, and Recker had a career-high 31 points on 10-for-17 shooting.

"This is a great, great win for us," Recker said. "To come down to Columbia to play a team that's familiar with us and has already played us and beat them on their own court convincingly, we obviously have things going in the right direction."

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