BUFFALO - Missouri and Clemson, both nicknamed Tigers, were supposed to be identical twins in terms of their fast-paced style of play, too. But after their NCAA Tournament first-round game Friday at HSBC Arena, well, Mizzou's Tigers came out looking prettier after taking charge in the second half for an 86-78 win.
At halftime, the total on each side of the scoreboard was identical - 39 points each. But midway through the second half, Missouri went on a 15-5 run to take a 65-55 lead. The key was a defense that held Clemson to 1-for-10 shooting in that stretch while forcing four turnovers.
"In the second half, we really came out and turned up the intensity," said Missouri coach Mike Anderson, who once played for coach Nolan Richardson, who popularized the "40 minutes of hell" pressing defense.
Missouri forced 20 Clemson turnovers, leading to a 20-5 advantage in points off turnovers, and had a 22-2 margin in fast-break points. Post man Keith Ramsey was a force in the middle with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Guard Kim English also had 20 points and J.T. Tiller had 10 points, five assists and five steals. Demontez Stitt led Clemson with 20 points.
At halftime, English said, "Coach emphasized that we're a second-half team and the first five minutes would be the key. He said this is a game of runs and we wanted to go on our longest run. Just stay on the attack full-throttle for 40 minutes . . . I don't think [Clemson] gets a lot in the ACC, but we sped them up and it shows in the 20 turnovers they had."
And the Mountaineers had better get ready for 40 minutes of you know what.