Mizzou point guard Phil Pressey looks to pass in the Tigers win against Bucknell on Saturday
Sun, 06 Jan 2013 01:56:27 GMT — Back in March, 2005, Missouri fans had a new favorite team. Bucknell. That season for the Tigers was a lost cause under Quin Snyder, who was a lost cause in and of himself at the time. He was fired the following February, a month before the 2006 season ended. Snyder is proof that just because you have great hair, it doesn't make you a great coach. On March 16, 2005, the Tigers' season had ended at 16-17 with a first-round loss to DePaul before a crowd of about 80 people in the first round of the NIT at Mizzou Arena. Three days later, enter Bucknell. Missouri fans, with nothing left to cheer for, fell in love with these wacky Bison in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 19 --- which also happens to be the birthday of new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. And for those of you who keep track of birthdays, that's mine, too. :o) No. 14 seed Bucknell 64, No. 3 seed Kansas 63. Happy birthday to Andy and me! Celebrate with us, Tiger Nation! Saturday, Missouri fans finally had a chance to say thank you --- even though those Bucknell players and coaches are long gone. But when you're talking about sending Kansas home for the season --- even seven years later--- it's still okay to say thank you.This was quite close, however, to being a thanks-for-nothing day.In the first meeting between the schools, Bucknell (13-3) stood toe-to-toe and went wire-to-wire with No. 12 Missouri (11-2), before the Tigers escaped with a 66-64 win at Mizzou Arena.Whew."They're really good," Missouri coach Frank Haith said of the Bison. "They're well-coached, they play the game the right way and defensively, they just make it tough on you."In the first half, Missouri shot just 34 percent from the field and, after five early ties, trailed 28-24 at the break. The Tigers didn't take the lead for good until the 2:56 mark when Phil Pressey --- who dumped in a career-high 26 points --- canned a 3-pointer to make it 60-57.Pressey's effort came after he had a career-high and school-record 19 assists --- 19! --- eight days ago in an overtime loss to UCLA . But the Bison were in it to the finish and, trailing by one with 10 seconds left, had the ball and a chance to take the lead. But a turnover basically sealed their fate and this game.Earnest Ross had some key moments down the stretch for the Tigers, as he drained a well-guarded 15-footer, had a steal on Bucknell's next possession, and later hit two late free throws."I thought our guys showed great toughness at the end of the game," Haith said.This was Missouri's 73rd straight home win against non-conference teams, a streak that stretches back to a loss to Sam Houston State in the season opener in 2005 --- yes, Snyder's last season.Laurence Bowers added 16 points (12 coming in the first half) for the Tigers, who make their SEC basketball debut by hosting Alabama on Tuesday night. Not quite the buzz we had with football last fall, is it?Bucknell's previous losses this season were to Penn State and Princeton --- there's no shame there --- while its most noteworthy win was against Purdue --- a team that recently beat Illinois.As Haith said, they are good, and 6-11 senior Mike Muscala is great. He is perhaps the best player you've never heard of, as he totaled 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots Saturday.Those numbers are close to his average."He's pretty good , he's better than advertised," Pressey said. "I really like his game." So, if you're looking for a good underdog to ride in the NCAA Tournament coming in March, remember the name:Bucknell.You can thank me later.
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