Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mu Is Boast of Town 76-58 Win Allows Tigers to Brag Again

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mu Is Boast of Town 76-58 Win Allows Tigers to Brag Again

Article excerpt

Four games ago, Norm Stewart gawked in wonder at the Braggin' Rights Trophy that goes to the winner of the annual University of Missouri-Illinois basketball game in St. Louis: "I didn't even know there was a trophy," said Stewart, whose Tigers then hadn't seen it for eight years.

But on Thursday at Kiel Center, Stewart and his Tigers maintained their greedy clasp on the trophy for the fourth successive season with a surprisingly easy, almost anticlimactic, 76-58 victory over 23rd-ranked Illinois. Ho-ho-hum, St. Louis.

"That's a great way to open a building," said Stewart, whose subdued postgame demeanor was a reflection of the lukewarm letdown that followed last year's triple-overtime thriller.

Still, the game was played before the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game in the state of Missouri - 21,714. The previous known high was at The Arena in 1973, when 19,300 saw the NCAA Tournament final.

"I'm used to 600 people coming to our game," said either Sammie or Simeon Haley, one of the 7-foot twins who played at Connors State (Okla.) College last season. "This game had 22,000, so you've got to expect a young guy like me, I'm only 22, to be pretty excited about playing in front of a big crowd."

The Tigers (7-1) trailed 37-35 at halftime but dissected Illinois in the second half, largely on one aspect of the game: MU made 67 percent (12 of 18) of its shots, while the Flailing Illini (8-2) managed only 10 of 38 (26.3 percent) in the half and 20 of 63 (31.7) in the game.

"We didn't shoot the ball - you've got to shoot the ball to win," Illinois coach Lou Henson said. "Maybe we need to take better shots, but we don't always make the easy ones, either."

Much of their errant marksmanship, though, can be attributed to MU's fiendish defense - particularly that of Julian Winfield and Jason Sutherland.

"Missouri showed toughness," Henson said. "We looked like a soft ballclub. They just outscrapped us."

But Mizzou also managed to outfinesse Illinois. Derek Grimm, an Illinois native, made every shot he took - six of six field goals, four of four from 3-point range and two of two free throws.

"Guys were just getting me the ball in open spaces, and it was falling tonight," Grimm said.

Paul O'Liney led the Tigers with 19. Winfield made five of six field goals and five of five from the line for a career-high 15 points, in addition to yanking down six rebounds. MU, in fact, outrebounded Illinois 37-36 - the brawny Illini had been outrebounding opponents 42-31.

Illinois leads the Braggin' Rights series 9-5 and the series overall 16-9. The Tigers won their fifth game in succession this season and their sixth in succession over a Big Ten Conference team. And they did it with only 16 points returning from last season's 108-107 victory at The Arena, as well as without reserve center Monte Hardge, out with an ankle injury. …

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