Thursday, March 22, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Missouri 83, SEMO 61

February 23, 1994

Missouri's Big Eight winning streak won't grow tonight. The Tigers' 11-0 conference record takes the night off as the last non-conference opponent on the schedule comes to the Hearnes Center.

Southeast Missouri State visits, becoming the first team to try the Tigers' No. 6 ranking in The Associated Press.

While the Tigers could drop in their tracks and still make the NCAA Tournament, SEMO is one of the few teams at this time of year which can be flatly labeled not a tournament team.

The Indians brought the number of Division I schools in Missouri to five, following Southwest Missouri State and Missouri-Kansas City's trek from Division II. While they're in their third season in Division I, the Indians don't have all the rights and privileges of membership yet.

SEMO joined the Division I Ohio Valley in 1990-91. However, NCAA rules regarding conferences makes SEMO ineligible for the Ohio Valley's automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament for eight years. To make sure an eligible team wins, the Indians are barred from the OVC Tournament.

Coach Ron Shumate calls the effect of the rule “really devastating.”

Technically, the Indians could qualify for an NCAA at-large invitation or the National Invitation Tournament. But with a 9-14 record, 4-10 in the OVC, and four games left, the Indians aren't going anywhere.

“It's going rough,” Shumate said. “We're struggling. I've never had a season like this in my career, and I've been around it a long time.”

In 20 years as a college head coach, Shumate's 12-16 record two years ago in SEMO's transition to Division I is his only other losing season.

Shumate and SEMO had great success in the Division II NCAA Tournament. Shumate's 1977 Tennessee-Chattanooga team won the national championship. Two of his SEMO teams finished second. Shumate is in his 13th season at SEMO.

After going 16-11 and tying for fourth in the OVC last season, Shumate expected better.

“It's been a very frustrating year,” Shumate said. “The kids have played hard at times. Winning's a habit. Losing's a habit.”

In their last game, the Indians had conference leader Murray State down, only to see the Racers score five points in the final six seconds for a 96-95 victory at Cape Girardeau.

A season-high crowd of 6,630 came to the 7,000-seat Show Me Center.

“Our fans have not deserted us yet,” Shumate said. “We're still filling the place up almost.

“I think we've added a great deal to the Ohio Valley Conference,” Shumate said. “I know we've led the Ohio Valley in attendance the last two years.”

SEMO is a good fit with the OVC, whose other eight members are in Tennessee and Kentucky.

“I think it's a good conference,” Shumate said. “It's the right conference for us.”

“Once we get on a level playing field with the other Division I schools, I'll be more comfortable playing everybody.”

The Indians are the second Show-Me State team to come calling this season, which is a lot by recent standards. The Tigers opened the season with a 69-66 victory over NCAA Division II Central Missouri State. That was the first time Missouri played an instate school since the 1987 preseason NIT.

The NIT arranged a game between Southwest Missouri State and Missouri. The Tigers and Bears met Dec. 6, 1986, on their own initiative. Both games were played at the Hearnes Center and won by the Tigers.
February 24, 1994

If you accept the premise, last night's game was a good omen for Missouri's postseason prospects.

The Tigers finished their non-conference schedule with an 83-61 victory against Southeast Missouri State.

“Coach really stressed all week, `Get intense,' “ senior guard Melvin Booker said. “He said play it like it's an NCAA Tournament game. Once you get there, you play teams you haven't played against. It's like Russian roulette.”

When the Tigers brought the hammer down, the Indians proved harmless at the Hearnes Center.

Booker, who has won the last two Big Eight Player of the Week awards, stayed on a high level. With a game-high 17 points, he led No. 6 Missouri (21-2) in scoring for the 12th time in the last 16 games.

As at Kansas, where he scored a career-high 32 on Sunday, Booker's production was concentrated in the second half.

He had taken only three shots and missed them all before putting down a three-pointer from close to 30 feet just before halftime. That gave Missouri a 39-26 lead.

“I think that woke us up a little,” said guard Paul O'Liney, who added 16 points off the bench.

Booker took an inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds and fired away.

“I just jumped up and shot it,” Booker said. “It felt good when I let go of it. It went in. It got me started, going into the second half.”

Once started, Booker pretty well finished SEMO (9-15). He opened the second half with a milder burst of what shot down the Jayhawks on Sunday, when he scored 24-second half points.

Booker sandwiched two more three-pointers around a layup by Julian Winfield. O'Liney started that play with a steal. Booker hit another three, then dunked a lob pass from Lamont Frazier, one of his career-high eight assists.

That spree put Missouri up 49-27.

Booker made five of eight three-point shots and O'Liney three of five. Missouri was nine of 20.

The three-pointer was SEMO's best weapon also. The Indians made eight of 17, led by Curtis Shelton's four of seven. A Shelton three with 16:42 left was SEMO's first field goal of the second half.

Jermall Morgan led SEMO with 13 points.

Mike Crain's three-pointer pulled SEMO within 53-42 with 10:56 to play. Then Missouri put the game away. After Kelly Thames's short jumper, Booker hit his fourth three-pointer, then his fifth after O'Liney made two free throws.

The lead topped out at 79-47 with 3:21 left.

“Playing at places like Arkansas and Missouri is a good experience for our student-athletes, but it's very difficult for our kids to know that after tonight,” SEMO coach Ron Shumate said. Missouri is now 14-0 against Ohio Valley teams.

Missouri outrebounded SEMO 51-37. “I think physically we're a lot stronger than they are in the lane,” coach Norm Stewart said. “Those things show up.”

Booker took a seat for good with 7:18 left.

He had five assists, giving him 104 for the season. He joins Anthony Peeler as the only Tigers to surpass 100 assists in each of their four seasons.

Despite trying to visualize SEMO as an NCAA Tournament opponent, it wasn't easy to step out of the Big Eight for a night, Booker said. “It's pretty hard because you come off a win at Kansas,” he said. “You worry about the intensity level coming into this game.”

“I think we came out a little flat,” O'Liney said. “All of a sudden, we got a couple buckets, some good defensive plays, that kind of put us up.”

Frazier hopes the Tigers play better in March when the NCAA Tournament starts for real.

“We lacked at times,” Frazier said. “When it comes down to NCAA, you can't do that. You've got to be heady the entire 40 minutes.”