Missouri goes down 'fighting' in NCAA Tournament
When it came right down to it, the Missouri Tigers may have come in with the mindset of survive and advance in the NCAA Tournament, but Connecticut freshman Kemba Walker made sure that it was just a mindset and not a reality.
The 6-foot-1 Walker matched a career high with 23 points to lead top-seeded UConn to a 82-75 win over Missouri in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.
“If our guys came with what they came, they went out the same way they came in to this season,” said Missouri head coach Mike Anderson. “They came in fighting, scratching and clawing, and if you are going to go out, that's the way you want to go out, fighting, scratching and clawing, giving yourself a chance.”
It was a game where the Huskies seemingly hit the Tigers in the mouth by building up an 11-point lead in the first half.
"Yeah, they came out, threw the first punch, and we tried to throw a punch back, but we just couldn't get over that hump,” said Missouri senior forward DeMarre Carroll. “We tied the game plenty of times, but we just couldn't get over that hump.”
But the Tigers, who were one of the few teams that most sports pundits expected to make a regional final, were able to erase that deficit but failed to take advantage of a second-half spurt.
But the "us against the world" mentality was fitting for Missouri.
“When you got guys doing whatever it takes to win, you are going to get this far,” said Tiger senior guard Matt Lawrence. “I know we wanted to go further, and I think we had a team that was able to. Just didn't get the buckets we needed tonight and the defensive stops.”
Anderson echoed the sentiments about the Tigers, a team he said “came from out of nowhere.”
“I think all the hard work they put in, all the dedication, they brought back a sense of pride at Missouri basketball that hadn't been there for a while,” he said.
Matthew Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140. Follow Morning Sun sports at twitter.com/mssports.