Monday, March 5, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Missouri 85, Washington 71

(The birth of the O’Liney Funk-O-Meter.)

January 2, 1994: Newcomer Makes Impact in MU Debut

of the Tribune's staff

While watching Arkansas thrash Missouri 120-68 on Dec. 2, Paul O'Liney didn't notice what was wrong with the Tigers.

Instead, he wondered what could be improved.

“I saw them on TV against Arkansas and I figured I could help,” said O'Liney, a 6-foot-2 210-pound junior walk-on who made his debut last night with the Tigers. “Then I decided around Christmas to come, a real last-minute decision.”

O'Liney practiced just three times with the Tigers and hadn't played a game since the National Junior College Athletic Association's national tournament last March. But any inhibitions quickly dissipated after he launched a 23-footer to score his first basket in Missouri's 78-50 victory against Mercer with 4:58 to play in the first half.

The Antlers, Missouri's student jeering section, chanted “New guy! New guy!”
By the time O'Liney sank a 16-foot, off-balance shot about two and a half minutes later, the Antlers' affection became even more pronounced.


Ironically, O'Liney started his three-point streak while Mark Atkins did not convert a three-pointer for the first time in 14 games. O'Liney finished with nine points, but perhaps even more important, his morale was bolstered after a hiatus from competition.

O'Liney led Pensacola, Fla., Junior College to a 31-5 record and a national junior college championship last year while averaging 22.3 points per game. He planned to attend Clemson this fall but failed to graduate from Pensacola this summer because of what he called distractions there.

“It was loud, real loud in Pensacola,” he said.

Because he he had not graduated from junior college yet, he could not transfer to a Division I university. Clemson said no thanks.

So O'Liney enrolled for the fall semester at Connors State University in Oklahoma and graduated this month with a degree in arts and science.

“I knew it was a small place, where I could do my work,” O'Liney said. “It was somewhere quiet.”

O'Liney is eligible for the rest of the season and all of next season.

O'Liney said he was told he will receive a scholarship next year.

“Next year I get a scholarship,” O'Liney said.

In selecting MU, O'Liney said he didn't just take basketball into account. His aunt, Joyce Hopkins, lives in Columbia and is helping ease his transition.
Right now, finding a place to live and enrolling in classes are O'Liney's priorities.

Getting back in shape is another. O'Liney was breathing heavily after a few minutes of play. But his teammates expressed confidence in his abilities.

“His first practices, he played hard. I was talking to him and he told me he hadn't played in a while,” said Missouri guard Melvin Booker. “But he can shoot the ball. I observed that in practice. He will help us out a lot.”

Missouri coach Norm Stewart said he was pleased with O'Liney's debut, but he also stressed that it could take some time for O'Liney to find his niche.

“I've watched ... ball players where you give them a chance and then they keep working and you see what happens,” Stewart said. “You don't want to get too excited, you don't want to get too disappointed.”
January 3, 1994: Tigers Take Care of Business

of the Tribune's staff

Maintaining a safe distance wasn't easy at the Hearnes Center yesterday, but the Missouri Tigers managed to do it. The Tigers won their seventh straight game, beating Washington 85-71.

It wasn't neat, but for the first time this season Missouri (8-1) has put opponents away convincingly in consecutive games. After falling behind 9-7 during six minutes in which both teams slipped around as if there'd been an Omniturf transplant from Faurot Field to the Hearnes Center, Missouri took control with a 21-5 run.

Kelly Thames got it going with consecutive three-point plays.

After Scott Didrickson brought Washington (2-7) within 17-14 with a three-pointer, Mark Atkins dropped three three-pointers in a row to curb the Huskies.

“They weren't out on me after I hit the first one,” Atkins said. “I thought, `Whoo, they might get on me!' But Melvin” Booker and Julian Winfield “kept getting me the ball.”

Much of the time they were getting it direct from Washington. The Huskies had 12 first-half turnovers. The Tigers finished with 15 steals, six more than their previous season high Thursday night against Mercer.

“Turnovers killed us,” Washington coach Bob Bender said. “You can't give Missouri that many opportunities.

“Their athletic ability was very impressive, especially defensively. They forced us out of a lot of things.”

Booker ended up atop a well-balanced Missouri offense with a game-high 19 points. “We came out and played aggressive, got the lead that we needed,” he said. “I think that's really what we want to do, just create turnovers. That's our strong point, defense.”

Four other Tigers were in double figures, including Thames and Atkins off the bench, which produced 42 points.

In taking that first-half lead, the Tigers played largely free of fouls. They were called for only two by the Pac-10 officiating crew in the first 17:30. Then they picked up five in the last 2 minutes before halftime. Maurice Woods scored the last basket of the half from the baseline to cut Missouri's lead to 36-28. The Huskies got no closer.

They did get to the free throw line. Missouri committed its 10th team foul with 11:06 left in the second half, giving the Huskies two shots for each foul from then on. Missouri spotted Washington 12 free throws and 12 rebounds for the game, yet was never threatened in the second half. The lead topped out at 19 points.

“Technically, I thought that we were well-prepared for this team,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “We had some mismatches, and they went their way at times.

“When we made our run the first half, that was because we had matched up pretty well and were applying a lot of pressure defensively.

“But when we started out, we've got mismatches, big against little, and the little was winning. We didn't have the little.”

But the Tigers had the better of the guard play, with Winfield all over the floor defensively. They also had 19 assists to 11 turnovers, only their second positive ratio of the season.

“The lanes were there to penetrate,” Booker said. “We weren't worried about the contact. We were just going in there, playing.”

By the end of the game, Washington was out after Missouri's guards, leaving Missouri's inside players some room to operate.

“They were putting pressure on our guards, and the guards just penetrated and dished it down low and we got easy buckets,” Thames said. Maybe it was easier than it looked.