COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A couple of changes in the starting lineup got the attention of No. 23 Missouri.
Coach Quin Snyder shook up the status quo, leaving Arthur Johnson and Josh Kroenke on the bench for the opening tipoff, and it shook up the rest of the roster in a 76-56 victory over Iowa on Saturday. Linas Kleiza matched his career best with 18 points, including seven in a 2?-minute stretch of the second half, to help Missouri pull away.
“I want them to have the fire,” Snyder said. “I can provide some of the fire, and you can tap into me for a while. But it’s got to come from everybody.”
The Tigers (5-4) led almost all the way and Iowa’s largest margin was two points early in the game. That was a big change from the losing streak, when Missouri fell behind by 21 points to Illinois, 15 to Memphis and 10 to Belmont.
After the Belmont upset loss on Tuesday, Travon Bryant turned his cell phone off for two days.
“I was definitely embarrassed and I didn’t talk to my mom, I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” Bryant said. “Coach said, ‘Don’t feel bad for yourself, don’t get down, get determined.”‘
Missouri had dropped four of five overall after rising to as high as No. 3 in mid-December. But Snyder, in his fifth season, has never lost four in a row. And Missouri, despite the four-point loss at home to Belmont on Tuesday, is 17-2 in the Hearnes Center the last two seasons.
“The difference was our energy,” Kleiza said. “We came out playing as hard as we could.”
Iowa (7-3) went 6? minutes between baskets in the first half, and nearly 5? minutes without one in the second half and finished with 36-percent shooting. Pierre Pierce had 20 points and Jared Reiner 12 for the Hawkeyes, who have lost three of four.
“Getting beat is one thing,” coach Steve Alford said. “But when you get beat by 20, I hope that hurts a little bit.”
Pierce’s scoring total was his second-highest of the season despite dislocated his right ring finger in the opening minutes.
“He’s one of our creators and I thought he did a lot of good things,” Alford said. “He competed regardless of what our score was and that’s a good lesson for our seniors.”
Missouri won without much contribution from its two senior stars, Johnson and Rickey Paulding, the pair combining for 11 points. Bryant added 14 points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals, and Jimmy McKinney had 10 points.
“I didn’t think that would happen, but that just shows the character of the team and the talent we have,” Paulding said. “It was a tough night for us, but guys stepped up.”
Johnson didn’t start for the first time since Feb. 27, 2002, at Texas Tech as Snyder replaced him and Kroenke with Kevin Young and freshman Thomas Gardner. Johnson drew three quick fouls in just under two minutes in the first half and finished with four points, but had three blocks.
Paulding was 0-for-9, but was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.
Kleiza had two free throws, a baseline fadeaway jumper and a 3-pointer in a 15-2 run that put the game away, giving Missouri a 55-35 lead with 11:22 to go. The freshman ended up two points of his season best.
Kleiza also had nine rebounds, helping Missouri to a 45-37 advantage. The Tigers have outrebounded all nine opponents.
The game was the final pre-conference tuneup for both teams. Missouri opens Big 12 play Wednesday at Iowa State and Iowa is at home against Purdue on Wednesday.