Kleiza fights for a loose ball with Belmont's Nick Otis. Kleiza scored 10 straight points during one stretch in the first half.
Dec 30, 2003
By JIM SALTER
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - For the third straight game, No. 23 Missouri fell behind and then rallied only to fall short, losing 71-67 Tuesday night to Belmont of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Missouri (4-4), ranked as high as No. 3 this season, has lost three in a row and four of five. Coach Quin Snyder is 88-53 overall in four seasons at Missouri, but just 13-12 in December.
Steve Drabyn had 16 points for Belmont (6-3), while Nick Otis added 15, Adam Mark 14 and Jese Snyder 12. The Bruins shot more 3s than 2s, 35-20, and made 13 shots from beyond the arc.
The Tigers appeared headed for an easy win after taking a 31-21 lead late in the first half. But a 36-14 run put Belmont up 57-47 with 8:50 to play.
Missouri went on a 12-2 run to tie it at 59 on Jason Conley's free throw with 3:29 to play, before Belmont went back ahead for good. The Tigers had a chance with 12 seconds left when Drabyn missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Belmont got the rebound and Drabyn, fouled again, made both free throws.
Missouri outrebounded Belmont 41-30, but had trouble working the ball inside against the Bruins' 2-3 zone.
Kleiza, a 6-foot-8 native of Lithuania, scored on a layup with 14:40 to play in the half, then connected on two layups, a dunk and two free throws to help Missouri go on top in the first half, when the Tigers were seemingly in control of the game.
Then Belmont's 3s began to fall, leading to a 17-3 spurt that put the Bruins
ahead 38-34 with 18 minutes to play.
Missouri fell 12 places in the AP poll last week after a one-point loss to Illinois on Dec. 23 and a two-point loss at Memphis on Dec. 27.
Missouri has made a habit of falling behind and then rallying. Early this season, the rallies led to wins, such as when the Tigers overcame a 14-point deficit in the final seven minutes to beat Indiana. Not lately.
Missouri was down by 21 points to Illinois before tying the game with just over a minute to play, only to lose 71-70. The Tigers trailed Memphis by 15 before rallying, only to lose by two when McKinney's last-second 3-pointer clanged off the rim.
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