Missouri missed its last 10 shots from the field and six of its last eight free throws — and still managed to hang on against its toughest opponent so far.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri missed its last 10 shots from the field and six of its last eight free throws — and still managed to hang on against its toughest opponent so far.
Jason Conley had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Missouri’s defense limited No. 12 Gonzaga to a season-worst 38 percent shooting in a 63-61 victory last night.
“Our defense is getting better, that’s all I can say,” Conley said. “It doesn’t matter how long you didn’t score or how long you didn’t get a field goal.
“If you have more points than them, that’s all you need.”
Linas Kleiza added 11 points despite foul trouble for Missouri (7-5), which lost in overtime to Gonzaga last December at KeyArena in Seattle. Kleiza, Missouri’s leading scorer with a 17-point average, fouled out with 3:29 left.
Missouri, in its first action since losing by six to top-ranked Illinois on Dec. 22, improved to 16-38 against teams in the Top 25 in six seasons under coach Quin Snyder, a Mercer Island product. This was the Tigers’ first win over a ranked opponent since they beat Oklahoma State in double overtime Feb. 24 at home.
Ronny Turiaf, who averages a team-leading 19 points for Gonzaga, missed two free throws with a chance to tie it with 8.4 seconds left. Turiaf, battling two ankle injuries, had six points on 2-for-15 shooting along with nine rebounds.
“I’m supposed to be a leader and I’m supposed to step up and knock down those two free throws,” Turiaf said. “I didn’t. That’s it.”
Turiaf also missed badly on another chance to tie, a driving layup with about three seconds left that banged high off the side of the backboard. Adam Morrison was short on a three-point attempt at the buzzer. Gonzaga (10-2) had been given another opportunity when Missouri’s Kalen Grimes missed two free throws with 7.6 seconds left.
Coach Mark Few said Turiaf made an “awful” shot.
“We just didn’t realize how much time we had,” Few said. “We could have gotten all the way to the rim. Even Adam had time to set up and shoot.”
Reserve J.P. Batista had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Gonzaga, which was unable to follow up on a three-point upset at No. 3 Oklahoma State on Tuesday. Turiaf didn’t think fatigue was a factor.
“We have no excuse. I have no excuse,” Turiaf said. “I can’t come out and let my team down like I did tonight.”
Gonzaga entered the game shooting 52 percent. The Bulldogs weren’t as cold as Missouri down the stretch but had only 10 points in the final 8:27.
Missouri shot 7 for 17 from the free-throw line and 6 for 24 from three-point range.
Kevin Young’s layup capped a 10-2 run by Missouri that seemingly put them in control at 61-51.
Morrison and Missouri guard Jimmy McKinney clashed briefly after the game as fans stormed the court.
“One of their players put his fingers in my face and said a few choice words that I can’t say in the papers,” Morrison said. “I just told him to get his hand out of my face.”
McKinney shrugged off the confrontation.
“Just players just talking a little trash,” McKinney said. “That’s all.”
Missouri players felt rallying from a 15-point halftime deficit against Illinois, even in a loss, could be a turning point to a season that had a rocky start.
“I think we learned that if we can play with them (Illinois), we can play with just about anybody in the country,” Conley said. “Although we did lose that game, it was a big confidence booster for us.”