Wednesday, February 28, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Missouri 80, Arkansas State 58

(The first yawner of the season.)

December 8, 1993: MU Wins, But That’s Not the Half of It

of the Tribune's staff

Starting hasn't stopped being a problem for Missouri. The Tigers think theymight have found some answers in the second half of last night's 80-58 victory over Arkansas State.

“If we could play two second halves, that would be cool with me,” guard Melvin Booker said. Booker scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as the Tigers (3-1) broke away from a halftime tie.

Coach Norm Stewart started Booker, Jevon Crudup, Mark Atkins, Kelly Thames and Julian Winfield in an attempt to carry over Saturday's success, when Missouri turned a 39-28 halftime deficit into an 80-76 victory.

“We started the ballclub that finished the other day and was really playing well,” Stewart said. “It didn't take us long, we had to make a change. We were getting killed.”

Offensive anemia set in again. The Tigers trailed for almost the first 14 minutes, bottoming out at 17-7 with 9:12 left.

Chris Heller came in for Crudup and contributed at both ends. Jeff Clifton, ASU's All-Sun Belt forward, had made three straight jumpers.

“We get some immediate results,” Stewart said.

Clifton finished with 21 points to lead ASU (1-1).

Missouri went on a 13-2 run, with three-pointers from Mark Atkins at the start and end, to take a 20-18 lead with 6:03 left.

The Tigers later led 26-20, but Jerry Major made three free throws with no time on the clock to tie the score at 28 after Lamont Frazier fouled him while Major took a three-point shot.

The second half was very different.

Booker, who was 0 for two from the field in the first half, made six of his seven second-half field goal attempts, including three of four three-pointers. “I really just looked for my shot, and it was falling for me,” Booker said.

After shooting 39 percent in the first half, Missouri made 59 percent in the second to top 50 percent for the first time in 16 games.

After being outrebounded 19-15 in the first half, the Tigers finished with a 41-33 advantage on the boards.

They turned up the pressure, making point guard Arthur Agee give up the ball to disrupt the offense.

“It got us going,” Booker said. “We really wanted to get out and run the ball from the turnovers.”

Booker also had seven assists, doing everything necessary for the point guard position.

“He's the one that can bring it,” Stewart said. “He wants to bring it. So we're letting him bring it. The others right now are just a little hesitant.”

Booker has taken the ballhandling responsibility that supposedly was going to be divvied up.

“I'll take the role right now because my game's going pretty good,” Booker said. “So I'll be THE point guard.”

Eventually, that chore will be spread among more hands, Stewart said.

“They'll give him some relief,” Stewart said. “Someday somebody's going to say, `Melvin's back there and has worked for 35 minutes. Maybe I ought to go back there and help him out.' It'll occur to one of them someday, and they'll go back and try it.”

Booker played 39 minutes.

The Tigers were locked into a tight game for about 32.

Clifton went on another scoring spree early in the second half with Missouri's original lineup back in the game. He gave ASU its last lead at 38-35 with 16:35 to play.

Booker tied it at 38 with a three. His jumper broke a tie at 49 with nine minutes left. That started Missouri on a 31-9 run to the buzzer.

“We're just trying to get over that hump,” Thames said. “This will probably be one of the turning points.”