Friday, March 23, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Missouri 99, Oklahoma 83

February 26, 1994

Billy Tubbs would rather his team not be cast as spoilers. The name is Sooners.

They need to start winning some games like today's with No. 6 Missouri at the Hearnes Center real soon. And not for the historical footnote of preventing a perfect conference championship season for the Tigers (21-2, 11-0).

“We're playing this game for us,” Tubbs said. “If we win this game, it's for us, because we need it.”

At 14-9 and tied for fourth with Nebraska at 5-6 in the Big Eight, they're on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Last year, the bubble floated away and left OU in the NIT for the second time in three years.

“I think we've got to step up and win some critical games here now,” Tubbs said. “I look out across the nation, and there's a lot of teams in our spot.”

That spot was made more difficult last week when Oklahoma lost two games, including one 95-82 to Iowa State on Wednesday in Norman.

Leaving home might not be such a bad thing for the Sooners right now.

“We never dread going on the road,” Tubbs said. “Our team kind of steps up and meets that challenge. It doesn't much matter whether we play at home or on the road. It's always been a tough game at Missouri.”

But the Sooners have been tough enough to win at the Hearnes Center the last two years. Kansas' streak of three consecutive victories, which ended this season, is the record for a visitor to the Hearnes Center.

An MU victory today gives the Tigers their eighth Big Eight championship outright. So would a loss by second-place Oklahoma State, which plays at 1 p.m. today at Iowa State. Missouri would at least match its best Big Eight record in history by winning today. Missouri has gone 12-2 four times, all championship seasons under coach Norm Stewart.

“I think if we come out and play our ballgame, I don't think you'll see what you've seen the past two years,” Lamont Frazier said.

Tubbs has already seen the difference between this season and the last two years. “They're having a phenomenal year,” he said. “They're making all the key plays.

“Last year, they probably had four or five games where they didn't make the key plays. Last year they had four or five games won where the other team took it away from them.”

One bit of good news for Oklahoma against Iowa State was the return of forward Ryan Minor, who had missed three games with an ankle fracture. Minor scored 20 points in the loss.

“Right now, our team's so banged up that I don't know who's playing from one day to the next,” Tubbs said.

A sprained ankle suffered by Julian Winfield on Wednesday night against Southeast Missouri State forces the first change of the conference season in Missouri's starting lineup. Paul O'Liney, who had season highs of 20 points and six assists in Missouri's 104-94 victory at Oklahoma, likely will make his first MU start in place of Winfield.
February 27, 1994

A bona fide sellout jammed into the Hearnes Center yesterday to watch the sixth-ranked team in the nation continue to make a mockery of the Big Eight race.

Sports Illustrated was even in the house.

Norm Stewart and the Missouri Tigers did not disappoint.

Many of those same fans also came to get their annual Billy Tubbs fix, albeit a pursuit secondary to watching their beloved Tigers.

Columbians and Tubbs-watching at Hearnes? It's tantamount to Ground Hog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa.

C'mon, admit it. You know who you are, those of you in sections A-D. In other words, everybody.

Like the Tigers, Tubbs and the Sooners did not disappoint. But for a change, the vaudvillian sideshow that often plays in the theater of the absurd did not eclipse the actual competition.

Still, even at second billing, this game's undercurrent was compelling, in a Gong Show kind of way.

And the Sooners commanded center stage.

While Mark Atkins and Paul O'Liney were trying to renovate Missouri's three-point records, Tubbs & Co. were trying to match them in technical fouls.

A video replay confirmed that the Sooners did wedge some basketball between technicals and Tubbs' persistent pestering of the officials to tag the Tigers with a T or two.

Stir in some after-whistle pushing, several minutes of confusion over one free throw and a few curious calls, and you can sign off on a typical Missouri-Oklahoma game.

Series etiquette dictates such antics.

Of course, yesterday was no replay of OU's 1991 trip to Columbia, when Tubbs and Stewart shot blue streaks at each other after MU won.

And yesterday wasn't even close to Missouri's visit to Norman last month, when Tubbs declared no Big Eight team was safe against MU as long as the games were being played under “Norm's rules,” an assertion that Stewart influences officiating. Those were the same post-game remarks that included a veiled reference to funny business concerning O'Liney's midseason transfer. “Isn't that a nice walk-on?” Tubbs said under a cloud of sarcasm.

After yesterday's 99-83 Missouri victory, the only peep out of Tubbs that deviated from complimenting the Tigers or his players was his mild indignation over three technical fouls.

Junior guard John Ontjes received a scarlet letter after teammate Ryan Minor shoved MU's Lamont Frazier early in the first half. Just before halftime, Frazier ran over OU's Jeff Webster, catching official Ron Grissom in a momentary coma, which explains why Grissom called Webster for a foul, prompting Webster to say something that fetched a technical. Tubbs, feeling neglected, finally drew his T early in the second half on a seemingly harmless exchange with officials.

Tubbs stressed in his interview that neither he nor his players used profanity in drawing the technicals. He said he was puzzled as to why they were called.

“Our players, I assume, questioned some calls,” he said. “But I ask you this question: Were there any other calls disputed out there today? You figure it out.”

Outside of that, Tubbs was downright gracious.

How could he not be?

Stewart spent his time coaching and refrained from any sideline shenanigans.

The Tigers won essentially without soon-to-be Big Eight Player of the Year Melvin Booker, befuddled the league's leading scorer in Webster and conducted a seminar on three-point shooting.

They're 12-0 with two games remaining and potentially staring at only the third undefeated season in league history.

“I congratulate Norm and his team,” Tubbs said. “I thought they really played well, and the threes were the really big difference in the game.

“I think I have to say they have the better team than we do.”Yesterday, that went without saying.
February 27, 1994

When Missouri beat Oklahoma 104-94 Feb. 5 at Norman, Paul O'Liney and Mark Atkins lit up the Sooners combining for 44 points, including 10 of 18 from three-point range.

So you could expect the Sooners to take notice and at least slow down one of them yesterday in the rematch at the Hearnes Center. Instead, Atkins and O'Liney did themselves two better, producing 46 points. This time, they made 11 of 19 three-pointers; Atkins tied his own school record, as he did at Norman, with seven.

“I love playing Oklahoma,” Atkins, who scored a game-high 25, said.

“They play up-and-down-the-court basketball. That's the kind of ball I play. I fit in with that kind of play. So I did just that.”

Atkins came off the bench, as both did at Oklahoma. O'Liney made his first start in place in Julian Winfield. Melvin Booker's early foul trouble added to O'Liney's responsibility.

“When you come off the bench, you get a chance to look,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “So your concentration is usually there. His concentration has been there.

“He had a little difficulty. I got him out. Then he came back, then I thought he was in there. I think he's in the mode of a substitute.”

O'Liney opened Missouri's scoring with a three-pointer on his first shot. Then Atkins came in for him with 17:43 left after a turnover.

“I did come out a little sluggish,” O'Liney said. “It helped me get my mind, I guess, get back focused.”

Booker's absence for most of the first half did not affect him, O'Liney said.

“I basically didn't think about it,” he said. “I just played like I play in practice.”

Atkins pumped in four first-half three-pointers, O'Liney three.

Atkins' favorite came in the second half from the right corner with Dion Barnes checking him.

“That one in the corner, when he grabbed my arm and it still went in,” Atkins said. It was a line drive that never went much above the 10-foot high basket.

“When he threw the one in from the corner, it might have been 10-1, maybe 9-9 with overspin,” Stewart said. “He was really on.”

Calvin Curry, who made four of OU's five three-pointers, tried to stop Atkins.

“You can have a hand in his face, and he'll hit it anyway,” Curry said. “I think he's the one that gets their team going.”

With freshman Jason Sutherland adding one in three attempts, Missouri tied the school record of 13 three-pointers set in 1990 against Rutgers.

Booker figures Atkins and O'Liney make every Oklahoma game a red-letter date. “I think Mark and Paul, they had those two games marked on their schedule, `Can't wait to play Oklahoma.' The three's going up. Along with Curry, they're just out there having a shootout.”