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Hungry Tigers move on

MISSOURI 83, OHIO ST. 67: Playing like the team it was early in the season, Mizzou is in the Sweet 16.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2002


MISSOURI 83, OHIO ST. 67: Playing like the team it was early in the season, Mizzou is in the Sweet 16.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Missouri coach Quin Snyder was so serious in the hours before Saturday afternoon's NCAA Tournament second-round game against Ohio State he felt he better show a different demeanor come tipoff.

"I thought it was important to relax and for them to see me poised and relaxed and having fun," he said. "We were prepared and now we just needed to play."

And his Tigers did that like they haven't all season.

The 12th-seeded Tigers dominated every aspect of the game and routed fourth-seeded Ohio State 83-67 in the Pit to advance to the West Region semifinals this week in San Jose, Calif. The Tigers (23-11) last reached the Sweet 16 in 1994.

"We wanted to come out and show what type of team we're becoming," said junior forward Kareem Rush, who scored 17 and had a game-high nine rebounds despite playing with a painfully swollen lower lip that required 21 stitches after he busted it open against Miami on Thursday.

"The last couple of weeks we've worked so hard and it's paying off and we're showing people that hard work really pays off. We're going to keep trying to get better and better and advance as far as we can go."

The Buckeyes (24-8), the Big Ten tournament champions, were looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since their run to the 1999 Final Four at Tropicana Field. The only larger margin of defeat in 59 NCAA Tournament games for Ohio State came in 1991 to St. John's (91-74).

"It's an understatement that we were beaten by a much better team today," Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. "They were more physical, they were quicker and certainly they dominated the game on the backboards. We kind of ran into a buzz saw."

The Tigers led 25-19 when streak-shooting senior guard Clarence Gilbert banked in a 3-pointer with 7:11 left in the opening half.

"We were playing good defense and we were chipping away and when he hit that 3, it was like, 'Oh, my god, what's going on?' " said OSU senior guard Brian Brown, who finished with 19 points. "But he hits tough shots; he's a good shooter."

Yet Gilbert had missed his only two previous shots. As he passed by his coach, Snyder sensed that Gilbert was a bit wound up, a bit too intense, so he made a quick joke to relax him.

"Hey, I liked the bank, can you give me another one?" Snyder said.

Gilbert just laughed.

"It kind of got me going," Gilbert said with a wry smile. "I just made a couple good reads and got us going."

During the next seven minutes, Gilbert had 10 of his 16 points as he, Rush and sophomore forward Rickey Paulding, who led the Tigers with 20 points, keyed a decisive 19-7 run for a stunning 47-26 halftime lead.

Even with sophomore center Arthur Johnson in foul trouble and limited to just nine minutes in the half, the Tigers owned a 31-14 rebounding edge. In fact, they had nearly as many offensive rebounds (12) as Ohio State had total.

But the Buckeyes, who entered the postseason as one of the nation's best shooting teams (49 percent), managed to make just 11 of 31 shots (35.5 percent), including 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

Not much changed after intermission ... for either team.

The Tigers continued to shoot well, increasing their lead to as much as 28. And they continued to dominate rebounding, finishing with a 52-28 edge.

"I just see a more mature group," Snyder said of his team that showed immaturity after reaching No. 2 in the polls in mid December. "I think they have been very hungry to grow and right now this is a very hungry team."

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