Mizzou marches on

Friday, March 15, 2002

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Missouri woke up just after dawn and regained its early season form at just the right time.

Looking once more like a team that opened 9-0 and climbed to No. 2 in the rankings, the Tigers scored the first 12 points Thursday and upset No. 5-seeded Miami 93-80 in the West Regional.

"I think this team is playing its best basketball now," said Missouri coach Quin Snyder, who described the Tigers' early winning streak as "ignorance and bliss."

After that run, Missouri lost four of its next six games and steadily dropped in the polls. But Snyder said he could tell the Tigers went into the tournament in good shape.

"There's been a higher level of commitment," he said.

Missouri (22-11), seeded 12th in the West, seemed to relish the 10:40 a.m. tipoff. It got a 3-pointer from Ricky Paulding and five straight points from Clarence Gilbert in the game-starting run. Gilbert finished with 20 points.

"We got up at 6:45," Gilbert said, noting that's the earliest he has ever been up for a game.

"We got prepared last night," reserve guard Wesley Stokes said. "Everybody went to bed early, so the time wasn't a problem."

The Hurricanes (24-8) slumbered their way out of the tournament. Miami threw the ball away three times in the first three minutes, lost most of the battles for loose balls and got its first score on a three-point play by John Salmons with 16:51 remaining in the first half.

Miami coach Perry Clark discounted the idea the early start affected the Hurricanes.

"I thought Missouri came out and played with more confidence and more energy," he said. "They came out and took control of the game."

Missouri's starters all scored in double figures, with Paulding getting 16 points. Travon Bryant had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

"Coach wanted us to go out and be together, play together and play hard. That's what we did," Gilbert said.

The Hurricanes, who shot 33.8 percent and took some awkward shots in the second half while trying to rally, never got closer than 23-18. That came with 9:50 left in the first half on a dunk by Darius Rice. Missouri's biggest lead was 81-64 with 4:47 left, on Paulding's 3-pointer.

Missouri, which didn't get a single vote in the final Associated Press poll of the season, beat Miami without much help from leading scorer Kareem Rush.

Rush, averaging 20 points, scored just two in the first half, although he did finish with 15. He bit his lip with 1:45 left in the game and needed stitches.

Darius Rice and Elton Tyler led Miami with 17 points each. Salmons finished with 16.

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