Tigers hit unlikely road block

Had the Missouri basketball team experienced any more emotion in the past week, Tiger fans might have been left with very few familiar faces.

After coming out on top in a quadruple-overtime thriller over Iowa State on Saturday, coach Quin Snyder saw his team lose to the usual stepping stone in the Big 12 conference, Kansas State. It wasn't even close.

The Wildcats led from start to finish Tuesday night, and, when the final buzzer sounded, the men in purple had defended their home court with an 80-59 victory over the Tigers (12-4, 3-1 Big 12).

The loss to Kansas State marked the Tigers' fourth conference game of the season. In addition to Iowa State, Missouri had also defeated Nebraska (68-66) on Jan. 6 and Colorado (82-76) Jan. 10. Both games needed strong finishes, with the Tigers trailing most of the game against the Cornhuskers and fending off a late run by the Buffs.

Freshman center Arthur Johnson dominated the middle, chalking up 19 rebounds against Colorado.

In Saturday's marathon against the Cyclones, the Tigers avoided foul trouble throughout the game, overcoming the recurring foul problem they've had during the season. When Iowa State's top two players, Kantrail Horton and Jamaal Tinsley, fouled out in the extra periods, Missouri was able to take its time in hitting baskets down the stretch.

Big 12 scoring leader Kareem Rush made his presence felt in other methods than his final point tally. Although the sophomore finished with 32 points in the 112-109 victory, a few key baskets proved more important. Besides, junior guard Clarence Gilbert decided to drop in 43 points during the victory.

"I don't mind playing second fiddle," Rush said following the game. "If a guy can get that many points each night, that's fine with me."

However, both Rush's and Gilbert's tunes fell flat Tuesday night, combining for just 19 points in Manhattan, Kan. Rookie Wildcat coach Jim Wooldridge had his team ready to play" it halted every Tiger threat during the contest. The Wildcats held Johnson in check during his limited time on the floor and did not allow the Tigers to open up the rest of their game.

Overall, Kansas State held Missouri under 30 percent shooting for the game. Snyder deflected the possibility that the poor offensive production Tuesday was related to exhaustion remaining from the prior game.

"This wasn't a question of fatigue," the second-year coach said. "Kansas State executed. They hustled."

The loss could now jeopardize Missouri's No. 20 national ranking, a feat achieved only this week. The Tigers' opportunity to save the status most likely will come this Saturday when the team travels outside of the Big 12 to Charlottesville, Va. to take on Virginia. The Cavaliers have been ranked as high as No. 9 this season, although a beating at the hands of Duke pushed the Cavs to No. 13.

Originally scheduled for noon on ABC, the game has been moved to a 1 p.m. start time on ESPN2 due to ABC's coverage of the presidential inauguration ceremony.

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