Missouri point guard Terrence Phillips raced toward the sideline, timed his leap perfectly and secured the ball in flight. He spun, flung it back across the floor and into the hands of teammate K.J. Walton for what might be the greatest save in CBE Classic history.
A moment later, Walton was called for traveling.
It was that kind of night for Mizzou, a 66-42 loser to Kansas State in Monday’s semifinal contest at the Sprint Center.
Even the Tigers’ best moment quickly dissolved into pratfall.
To Mizzou coach Kim Anderson, the game got away the moment Missouri started losing the physical battles.
“I wasn’t surprised by the physicality of the game,” Anderson said. “I was surprised we didn’t match it.”
The Wildcats aggression was the focal point of Missouri’s scouting report. But after hanging around the early moments, Missouri couldn’t keep up on either end of the floor.
“We just didn’t come out ready, and they played harder than us” said freshman forward Kevin Puryear, who played at Blue Springs South.
Offensively, it would be difficult to imagine a worst half that what Missouri produced before halftime.
The Tigers jogged to the locker room at the break trailing 31-14. They went 5-of-27 from the floor and made just one of their nine three-point attempts.
That one was a high arcing bomb by Wes Clark that didn’t appear to have a prayer when it left his hand but splashed home.
Missouri was missing from inside and outside. The Tigers forced only turnover for the half, so there was nothing in transition.
“I thought we had many opportunities but they just weren’t falling,” said Puryear, whose nine points led the Tigers.
Things didn’t get much better in the second half. When Cullen VanLeer knocked down a three-pointer and got knocked in the nose in the process without a foul being called with seven minutes remaining, Tigers Coach Kim Anderson raised a fuss and collected a technical foul.
That brought the loudest cheer of the night from Missouri fans.
Until Monday, Missouri (2-2) had played three good games, winning the first two before fading in the second half of its first loss, at Xavier last week.
But in the first meeting against the Wildcats since Missouri’s Big 12 days, the Tigers never recovered from the abysmal start.
“It’s one game,” Anderson said. “It’s not the end of the season.”
Not even the end of the tournament. Missouri will meet Northwestern at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“The good thing is we don’t have of time to cry,” Anderson said. “We have to come right back.”