Men Win in Big 12 Opener
The often erratic senior guard had a career-best 23 points and Thomas Gardner also had 23, both getting big baskets in the closing minutes of Missouri's 69-61 victory over Oklahoma State in a conference opener on Saturday night.
"It didn't matter who was guarding me, and it don't matter who's guarding me from here on out," McKinney said. "I'm just shooting because my time is running out. "Hey, I'm going out with a bang and whatever happens, happens."
McKinney's point total was fueled by 15 points in the first half, and he had five points in the final 2:18 after struggling much of the second half. Gardner, who leads the conference with a 19.9-point average, scored 16 of his points in the second half. Gardner was happy to have a running mate. McKinney, who averages 10.5 points, scored only two in the final preconference tuneup against Louisiana-Monroe.
"Jimmy played his 'A' game, he was on his stuff," Gardner said. "He told us it was a new season and he needed to be a new player."
Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said he thought he would have seen a lot more games like this from McKinney, instead of only a couple of times a season.
"When I saw him as a young player, I thought he'd be a great player, and he's a good player," Sutton said. "I thought he'd have nights like this quite often, really, but he had a great night. And we had a freshman trying to cover him and he kept losing him."
Gardner missed a pair of bonus free throw opportunities in the final minute to help Oklahoma State crawl to four points down before finally hitting a pair with 20.7 seconds left that iced it, giving Missouri a 67-61 lead.
"They rimmed out for me, but my team did a great job of defending and rebounding and I came back and got the two to seal the game," Gardner said.
Those two, who each had three 3-pointers, were the only players in double figures for Missouri (8-4), which shot 53% to win its eighth in a row at home before a season-best crowd of 10,171. The Tigers have won 12 of their last 13 at home, and coach Quin Snyder is 7-0 in conference home openers. Like McKinney, Gardner took advantage of Oklahoma State's youth. The Cowboys have three freshmen in the starting lineup, two of them guards.
"I know if I had a freshman guarding me, my eyes would get kind of big," forward Mario Boggan said. "I would have taken it to them, so I think that's what they did."
Boggan had 14 points and JamesOn Curry 13 for Oklahoma State (10-5), which has lost four of its last six to Missouri. The Cowboys, who made eight of their first nine shots in the second half and led by five points early after the break, faded. Oklahoma State shot 55% overall but was just 3-for-12 from 3-point range, including 1-for-7 by Curry. Torre Johnson added 12 points for the losers, who made it to the free throw line only twice and not at all in the second half.
"It ain't like we laid down and just gave it to them," Boggan said. "But we had some turnovers that unfortunately we didn't mean to, but it happened."
McKinney's best half perhaps of his career, 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting, helped Missouri keep it close in the first half after the Tigers squandered a 7-point lead. McKinney had nine of the Tigers' first 11 points. A 12-2 run punctuated by four straight points from Boggan had put Oklahoma State ahead 27-24 with 1:40 to go, and the Cowboys took a 29-28 lead into the break after McKinney's basket from the wing with 3 seconds left.
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