Missouri Marches Into Sweet 16

MUTIGERS.COM Jeffrey Ferguson fends off a first-half steal attempt by Ohio State's Brent Darby in the second round of the NCAA West Regionals.
Jeffrey Ferguson fends off a first-half steal attempt by Ohio State's Brent Darby in the second round of the NCAA West Regionals.

March 16, 2002

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AP Sports Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The only hit Missouri took Saturday was to Kareem Rush's already stitched-up lip.

Rush and the Tigers did a lot more damage to Ohio State.

Unranked heading to the NCAA tournament and lightly regarded by the selection committee, 12th-seeded Missouri put on another dazzling display of offensive punch and rebounding power in an 83-67 upset of the No. 4 Buckeyes in the West Regional.

Now the Tigers are playing like the team that opened the season 9-0 and was ranked No. 2 in the polls in December. And coach Quin Snyder says they might not have peaked yet.

"Right now, this is an incredibly hungry team," Snyder said. "Every game we play, we've got a chance to get better."

Missouri (23-11) moves into the round of 16 for the first time since 1994. No 12th-seeded team ever has gone beyond the regional semifinals.

Ohio State guard Brian Brown, who led the Buckeyes with 19 points, said Missouri could go much deeper in this tournament.

"Those guys are dangerous because they're unconscious," Brown said. "They shoot the ball whenever they feel like it."

Rush didn't seem bothered by a nasty cut on his lip that required 21 stitches to close. He had 17 points and nine rebounds, while Rickey Paulding scored 20 points and also had nine boards.

Rush was cut Thursday in Missouri's first surprise of the tourney, a 93-80 victory over fifth-seeded Miami.

On Saturday, he was fouled and took another shot to the mouth with just over 4 minutes left. He hit the floor, got up and checked for blood. He shrugged off the hit and proceeded to hit the two free throws.

"Yeah it hurt," Rush said, "but my teammates said 'Don't let them see you hurt.' It's just a busted lip. As long as you don't think about it, it doesn't come into play."



Missouri dominated the boards with a 52-28 advantage that included 18 at the offensive end.

"We talked about rebounding like it was the front of a battle," Snyder said. "We got in our fox hole."

One of those offensive rebounds was Paulding's tip-in basket at the end of the first half that put the Tigers up 47-27. With the Missouri fans on their feet, Paulding walked off the floor with his hands raised.

"We were beaten by a much better team," Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. "They were quicker and they dominated the backboards."

The Tigers took control by hitting 18 of 37 shots in the first half. Ohio State alternated going from a man-to-man defense to a zone, but it didn't slow Missouri.

"We wanted to break the defense down before we took a shot." Snyder said, adding that his players "were trying to rebound each other's misses instead of assuming they are going to get the shot."

Big Ten conference tournament champion Ohio State (24-8) never mounted a threat in the second half. The Buckeyes shot just 35.5 percent.

Clarence Gilbert added 16 points, and Arthur Johnson 14 for Missouri. Gilbert scored 13 points in the final 8 minutes of the first half and led an 18-4 run that put the Tigers up 41-23.

The Tigers are playing so well they've trailed for a total of only 44 seconds in their two NCAA games.

With 14:21 left Saturday, Gilbert hobbled to the Missouri bench nursing his left ankle. The ankle was retaped, and Gilbert made a 3-pointer moments after re-entering the game to give the Tigers a 63-39 lead.

Brown's short jumper 16 seconds into the game gave the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead, the only time Missouri has trailed in the tournament. Missouri center Arthur Johnson hit consecutive layups, and just 1:24 in, the Tigers were in front to stay.

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