Missouri uses D to bump off No. 11 K-State 74-68
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—The shots weren’t falling, more than 10 minutes without a make. Turnovers came one after another, five in a row at one point. Free-throw shooting? Yikes.
Missouri was in trouble, the kind of spot where a less strong-willed team might fold. Coach Mike Anderson knew the Tigers wouldn’t. He’d seen them dig in too many times before.
Marcus Denmon scored nine of his 14 points in the final six minutes and Zaire Taylor hit a big 3-pointer late, lifting Missouri to a gritty 74-68 win over No. 11 Kansas State on Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
“We had some adversity take place. It didn’t look good,” Anderson said. “Most guys would tuck it in and just go home. Our guys, and I could see it in their eyes, they just weren’t going to lose.”
It sure seemed that way for a while.
Plagued by shaky free-throwing shooting and sloppy turnovers, Missouri (13-3) looked a whole lot like a team ready to fold. Instead, the Tigers rallied, used their defense to create opportunities for Denmon and Taylor, who calmly knocked down big shots to extend the nation’s second-longest home winning streak to 30 games.
Taylor had 14 points and Laurence Bowers finished off the Tigers’ eighth straight win with two free throws and a dunk in the final 13 seconds.
“It was a war and we pulled through,” said Bowers, who had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Kansas State (13-2) matched Missouri’s intensity in an ugly stop-and-start game that featured poor shooting, 56 fouls and 41 turnovers. The Wildcats just couldn’t keep their composure against the Tigers’ pressure and got almost no production from their front court, losing for the 24th time in 26 games in Columbia.
Jacob Pullen scored 21 and Denis Clemente had 16, but shot a combined 10 for 26 from the floor and had a hard time getting the ball inside to Kansas State’s post players.
“Against their halfcourt defense, we couldn’t get anyone else involved,” said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, who apologized after the game for hitting senior Chris Merriewether on the side with the back of his hand during a late timeout. “We never got a post presence.”
Missouri went without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes in the second half and found itself trailing 53-48 after Kansas State went on a 14-2 run. Denmon got the Tigers back on track with consecutive 3-pointers, then hit a jumper and a free throw to put them up 66-63 with just over a minute left.
Pullen answered with a long 3-pointer, but Taylor came right back with a 3 at the other end, putting Missouri up 69-66 with 33 seconds left.
Dominique Sutton scored off a blocked shot to cut the lead to one, but Kansas State couldn’t keep Bowers off the glass after J.T. Tiller missed the second of two free throws. Bowers hit two free throws with 13 seconds left and threw down a breakaway dunk after the last of Kansas State’s 21 turnovers.
“You could tell they were really excited to play this game and we just didn’t come out and match their energy,” Pullen said. “That’s something that you learn.”
This game was supposed to be a blur, like a shaky-camera chase scene in one of those Jason Bourne movies.
Missouri calls its brand of breakneck hoops “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” and leads the nation in steals and turnovers forced.
The Wildcats don’t have any nifty catch phrases, but they can play a little defense, too. Led by Sutton, a shutdown corner of a forward, Kansas State has gotten 25 percent of its scoring off turnovers in Martin’s three years as coach and is averaging 22.3 points per game this year.
Instead of a race, this game turned into a parking lot. The officials called 16 fouls in the first 10 minutes, 25 in the first half and kept blowing their whistles.
It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise: Kansas State leads the nation in drawing fouls at 26.1 per game and commits 21.6 per game, most in any major conference.
The fouls turned the track meet everyone expected into a free-throw shooting contest neither team seemed destined to win.
Missouri, a 72-percent free throw shooting team on the season, went 28 for 43 from the line, drawing groans from the home crowd with each miss. Kansas State was only a percentage point better at 20 for 30.
“It was a lot of free throws,” Anderson said. “That just tells you we’re in Big 12 play. It’s physical, it’s tightly defended, it’s a tight game—and it was.”