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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lousy end to lousy week

Tigers 'terrible' in loss to Border War rivals

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A disastrous and almost embarrassing week for Missouri University basketball ended : well, pretty fittingly.

Criticism has bombarded MU yet again for its handling of coach Quin Snyder's departure, and as the details reluctantly were made public during the last few days, a huge shadow loomed over the Tigers' hoops squad heading into Saturday's Border War matchup.

The result was a Mizzou team that shot like the arena indeed was pitch black: Kansas University 79, Missouri 46.

"We've had spells like that where we can't seem to kick it in the basket," interim coach Melvin Watkins said. "If you have that against a good basketball team, they're going to make you pay."

Already down 19, Missouri hit its first shot of the second half, then missed its next 17. At one point in the first half, the Tigers had 15 turnovers and one assist. The same team that used grit to beat the Jayhawks a month ago in Columbia looked this time like a poor puppy ready to be walloped by his owner for eating the trash.

"Terrible," senior Jimmy McKinney said. "It was a terrible effort."

The Tigers have had a lot of these, though. They lost to Baylor by 26, Iowa State by 24 and Illinois by 32 earlier this season. Saturday's one-sided affair had the same bitter-beer taste.

The flat-lined Tigers did awaken a little well after KU had it won. After clanking 17 straight shots from the field, MU finally hit one with 4:39 left, a Marshall Brown three-pointer.

Mizzou then tacked on a late flurry of buckets - all answers to KU points - to give the impression that the Tigers weren't about to let the lead climb over 30 points on this day.

But even that failed; Stephen Vinson drained a three with 14 seconds left, finishing the scoring.

Kansas won by 33.

"I don't know why we didn't come to play," McKinney said. "We were prepared. Everything was right, the right moment. We just didn't come out and play as a team."

The obvious guess would be the ugly divorce between Snyder and Mizzou. Snyder resigned under pressure Feb. 10, and details on how it all went down - including an alleged visit from MU broadcaster Gary Link to break the news - gave Missouri another black eye to stick a steak on.

How, then, could Mizzou be expected to compete against a surging Kansas team at Allen Fieldhouse?

"There's definitely not excuses," McKinney said. "We're all grown men. There's not an excuse to come out here and have the effort we had and not to play basketball like we've been practicing."

Watkins agreed, saying, "If you want to use it as an excuse, you can. I choose not to."

Mizzou (11-12 overall, 4-8 Big 12 Conference) now will sputter through the rest of its doomed season, starting Tuesday against Texas A&M.; Likely, the Tigers are destined for another season watching the NCAA Tournament on television, falling short of what used to be annual trips to March Madness.

If the tailspin continues to go as projected, it would be Mizzou's third straight year without a berth.

"It's been a tough year," McKinney said. "But, hey, you have those in life."

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