- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - During a timeout with 17.8 seconds remaining in a tie game on Saturday, Missouri coach Kim Anderson figured Illinois would attempt to find guard Rayvonte Rice for the final shot.

Rice did end up with the ball as the clock wound down, dribbling around behind the 3-point line, guarded by Tigers Keith Shamburger and Johnathan Williams III. Unable to drive forward, Rice stepped back for a fade-away attempt that converted at the buzzer for a 62-59 win.

While Rice fell backward in joy, mobbed by teammates at mid-court, Missouri’s players doubled over in shock.

“I think we covered him; he made a great shot,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to give him credit. The thing is you can’t put yourself in that position. We missed some rebounds coming down the stretch. We had some wasted possessions, and against good teams, you can’t afford to do that.”

Wesley Clark ended a scoring drought of 2:57 for Missouri (5-6) with a jumper from the key that tied the game for the 10th time before the timeout. After coming off the bench for the past four games, the sophomore guard started in place of Namon Wright, who was sick, and finished with 11 points.

Williams III led the Tigers for the fifth consecutive game in scoring with 15 points and added eight rebounds.

After losing its first four games against opponents in major conferences, including a 74-58 setback against Xavier on Dec. 13 in which it faded in the second half, Missouri hung with Illinois (9-3) the entire game.

The Tigers never trailed by more than six while their biggest lead was three.

Clark said the game, played in front of a split audience in St. Louis, helped the team’s confidence.

“I just think we’ve grown more as a team,” he said. “Instead of things being a little out of whack, we came together for each other.”

Anderson said he saw some promising signs from a team that plays five freshmen.

“I learned something today about this group,” he said. “I don’t want to be a program where we’re happy to lose. That’s not what this is. But I did watch some guys grow up and show what they can do. Now we’ve got to do it on a regular basis.”

It was just the eighth time in 34 games in the series with neither team ranked.

TIP-INS

Illinois: The Fighting Illini prevailed despite going just 4 for 18 from 3-point range. Ahmad Starks topped double figures for the first time in nine games, though he was just 1 for 7 on 3-pointers. He entered averaging 7.3 points.

Missouri: Shamburger scored all five of his points in the final 1:36 of the first half, including two free throws after a technical foul. He’s now 29 for 32 at the line this season.

IN THE HOUSE

Usually the crowd is evenly split, half-clad in orange and the other half in gold. This year it was closer to 60-40 Illinois with a paid attendance of 20,079, including baseball Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Wesley Clark admitted Missouri might have committed seven turnovers in the first 10 ½ minutes because of noise. The Tigers finished with 14 for the game after settling down.

“I don’t know who wouldn’t come out nervous,” Clark said.

UP NEXT

Illinois hosts Kennesaw State next Saturday.

Missouri faces Oklahoma State in Kansas City Dec. 30.


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