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No. 5 Missouri wins SEC East

Saturday, 30 November 2013 23:07 Published in Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Henry Josey broke loose for the go-ahead score on a 57-yard run with 3:34 to go and No. 5 Missouri wrapped up the SEC East, riding a strong second half to a 28-21 victory over No. 19 Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC) advances to the conference championship game against Auburn — a matchup of schools very lightly regarded before the season. Missouri has made a six-win improvement from its initial SEC season and fourth-ranked Auburn (11-1, 7-1) has topped last year's total by eight after stunning No. 1 Alabama.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel was held in check for the second straight week, throwing one touchdown pass and rushing for 21 yards on 11 carries. He was 24 for 35 for 195 yards.

Thousands of fans among a sellout crowd of 62,197 — nearly all of them clad in black, stormed the field after the game ended. The field wasn't cleared for at least 20 minutes.

Missouri had been 11-44 under Pinkel when trailing at the half. Pinkel has 101 wins in 13 seasons at Missouri, tied for Don Faurot for most in school history.

Texas A&M has one of the worst defenses against the run in the nation, allowing 221 yards per game. Until Josey's breakaway run, the Aggies had done a nice job.

Starting from its 34, Josey carried for 4 yards and quarterback James Franklin ran for 5 yards. Josey busted free up the middle on third-and-1.

Texas A&M never threatened the rest of the game.

Tra Carson broke two tackles on a 31-yard scoring run that was also the first touchdown allowed by Missouri in the first quarter in six games. Derel Walker's 32-yard reception made it 14-7 late in the half.

Walker's score came just 1:10 after Franklin's 38-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington. Manziel rolled out to buy time and Michael Sam tackled him a beat too late.

Early in the second quarter, Missouri failed to capitalize on a lost fumble by punt returner De'Vante Harris at the A&M 36. Backup Maty Mauk got his usual early series at quarterback and Missouri lost a yard on three plays before punting.

No. 5 Missouri aims to contain Manziel

Saturday, 30 November 2013 00:20 Published in Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — LSU set the template for No. 5 Missouri. Keep Johnny Manziel in the middle of the field, and the Heisman Trophy winner can be contained.

Coach Gary Pinkel knows that's easier said than done.

"I don't know if you ever truly stop him," Pinkel said. "Everybody will say, 'Do exactly what LSU did.' I don't think every team and every player is perfect all the time."

Manziel came close last year against the Tigers, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two more scores to help the Aggies run up a 42-7 halftime lead in a 59-29 blowout.

Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC) dropped 10 spots to 19th in the poll after getting manhandled on the road in a 34-10 loss last week. Manziel was held to one touchdown pass and intercepted twice, and for the first time in his career he fell short of 50 percent completion.

LSU's ends stayed wide to neutralize Manziel's improvisational skills, with great success. Sure, that gives the Tigers some confidence.

"I mean yes, I guess you could say that," senior defensive back E.J. Gaines said. "But it doesn't happen very often."

Watch for Missouri (10-1, 6-1) to at least give it a try.

"We're certainly going to be tested with this guy," Pinkel said. "He's a better plays than he was a year ago."

There's a lot riding on this one for the Tigers. Win, and they take the SEC East and advance to the conference championship Dec. 7 in Atlanta. Lose, and South Carolina gets the nod based on its overtime victory at Missouri.

Texas A&M seeks to right the ship and improve its bowl position amid intrigue. Manziel could announce soon whether he'll return for his junior season or enter the NFL draft.

Five things to look for in Texas A&M-Missouri:

GROUND GAME: Missouri running back Henry Josey is all the way back from a left knee injury so serious Pinkel had doubts he'd be 100 percent again, saying "it was more like a car wreck than an athletic injury." Josey had two of the Tigers' three scores last week, his second straight two-TD game, and he's closing in on 1,000 yards. The senior missed the end of the 2011 season and all of 2012. "I think he's playing as good or better than he has ever played," Pinkel said. "It's great to see it. He's untouchable — do not say a bad word about Josey."

STINGY DEFENSE: Texas A&M's offense leads the SEC with a 45.7-point average but is coming off a dud. Missouri is second in the league allowing just 19 points, and is coming off a superior effort in a 24-10 victory at Ole Miss. The Rebels had been averaging 34.5 points but mustered just one field goal in three trips inside the 20, and twice came up empty after having first-and-goal.

BOUNCING BACK: Before last week, the Aggies hadn't lost by double digits. They had the ball for less than 20 minutes at LSU. They've got to get over it. "I drive through here at a gas station and it's like the sky is falling," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We're playing a real season with real opponents and real games. Are we where we want to be right now? No. But that doesn't mean the sky is falling. We're going into another game as an underdog and the difference is people expect us to win. That's a completely different attitude than when I first got here."

SENIOR NIGHT: The home finale always is an emotional experience for Pinkel, who lets the tears flow and hugs everyone during the pre-game ceremony. Players know they'll have to change gears quickly, and put the game face back on, after getting their name announced before a sellout crowd and then getting greeted by family. "I know my mom will cry, my dad will probably too, and i'll have my daughter out there," offensive tackle Justin Britt said. "To be determined. I've seen some great players who had great careers here, and they didn't cry."

BIG TARGET: Six-foot-5 receiver Mike Evans has become a favorite target of Manziel. Evans is second in the nation with 1,314 yards receiving and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. He is the only SEC receiver with two games with more than 225 yards receiving. His 279 yards receiving against Alabama broke a school record that had stood since 1965. Evans leads the nation in catches of 30 yards or longer with 17 and his 12 touchdown receptions lead the SEC and are fourth in the nation.

Ross, Missouri beat Nevada 83-70, go to 7-0

Saturday, 30 November 2013 00:18 Published in Sports

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Missouri may not be playing under the national radar for much longer.

Earnest Ross scored 28 points, Jabari Brown had 24 and the Tigers remained unbeaten with an 83-70 win over Nevada in the final round of the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday night.

Jordan Clarkson added 21 points for the Tigers (7-0), who converted 31 of 33 free throws.

"When you have those three guys playing the way they did tonight, we are going to be hard to beat," said coach Frank Haith, who returned from a five-game suspension to get wins on consecutive days at the tournament. "When you have three guys that are going to go and get you 25 points — that's a luxury."

Ross made 12 of 13 free throws and grabbed nine rebounds. Brown made four 3-pointers for Missouri, which finished 4-0 in the round-robin tournament and is likely to receive votes in this week's Associated Press poll.

Missouri will at least be tournament co-champion with No. 19 UCLA, which was 3-0 going into Friday's last game against Northwestern. The Tigers defeated Northwestern in third round on Thursday.

"We executed so well in the first half, we took good shots," Haith said. "We got to the free-throw line and we were moving the ball. In the second half, we took some quick shots. (Nevada) got into transition and they got a little rhythm and that's just the way college basketball is. Once (Nevada) cut the lead to five, we made big plays."

Haith's suspension stemmed from his tenure at Miami, where the NCAA ruled he didn't monitor assistant coaches' actions with a booster.

Deonte Burton led Nevada (3-5) with 20 points and three blocks. He was 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. Marqueze Coleman had 15 points for the Wolf Pack, which ended the tourney 1-3.

Nevada cut the Tigers' 21-point first-half lead to five with six minutes left in the game, but Missouri went on a 16-8 run to pull away.

"We just have to play harder, we just can't let up in the second half like we did," Clarkson said. "(In the second half) they were getting a lot of open shots, and once we started communicating, I felt like we shut them down."

Missouri finished at 47 percent from the field, while the Wolf Pack was at 35.

"When you miss shots, and get a team like that in transition, I think that's what built the lead," Nevada coach David Carter said. "I thought we were able to make some baskets, and crawl back into it."

The tournament's championship format was changed to round-robin this year to accommodate the Tigers and Bruins, who have a game scheduled for Dec. 7 at Missouri and didn't want to play twice this season.

Missouri came out aggressive early against the Wolf Pack, taking an 11-2 lead and going up by as many as 21 points late in the first half. Brown and Ross each had 16 points in the half. Missouri shot 52 percent from the field and made 13 of 14 free throws to lead 44-26 at the break.

Missouri hosts West Virginia on Thursday before UCLA comes to Columbia.

"I fully expect (Missouri) to be in the NCAA tournament," Coleman said. "We knew how fast and how strong they were. Their speed and height was tough. They got to us in the first half. In the second half, we made some adjustments and got the lead down to five, they hit a couple of baskets and took care of us."

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