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Missouri TB Josey is game-breaker again

Thursday, 05 December 2013 22:54 Published in Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A little more than two years ago, Henry Josey ripped his left knee to shreds making a cut. He tore the ACL, MCL and patellar tendon on a 2-yard gain against Texas at home, an injury so extensive Missouri coach Gary Pinkel thought it looked like his star tailback had been in an automobile accident.

It was serious enough that Texas coach Mack Brown crossed the field at a hushed Faurot Field to have a look.

In the SEC championship game on Saturday, No. 3 Auburn will see a player who's made it all the way back.

Coaches and teammates couldn't have been more pleased that the 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior got a chance to really stretch his legs on the go-ahead touchdown late in the victory over Texas A&M that wrapped up the SEC East.

"You saw Henry, when he got that one hole how fast he took off," center Evan Boehm said. "And that's something special to see. What better person to get that than Henry?"

Josey is a cinch for a second 1,000-yard season in as many years starting for the fifth-ranked Tigers (11-1, 7-1 SEC), needing just 50 yards with two games remaining. He's busted four 50-yard-plus gains this season, serving notice with a 68-yard TD in the opener and scoring on an 86-yard run at Kentucky.

He has eight carries of 20 yards or longer and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Though it's down from a scintillating 8.1-yard average in 2011, Josey believes he's a better back now.

"I hope I'm better than I used to be," Josey said.

Faster, too?

"I think so," he said.

There's no doubt he's an inspirational presence, what Pinkel refers to as "untouchable."

"You don't say a bad word about Henry Josey," Pinkel adds, "no matter what."

Josey was all-Big 12 as a sophomore with 1,168 yards despite missing the last three games with an injury that required multiple operations. He spent all of 2012 rehabbing.

"We saw it every day, just tirelessly working, and coming back mentally, too," guard Max Copeland said. "You've got to be a special dude to come back from something like that mentally."

Missouri has been careful not to overload Josey his first season back, plus there's plenty of depth. Sophomore Russell Hansbrough (624 yards, 6.3-yard average, 4 TDs) and junior Marcus Murphy (561, 6.9, nine TDs) are speedsters, and quarterback James Franklin (412, 4.5, three TDs) is a shifty threat.

"Sometimes we don't even block the right guys and he still scores," right guard Conner McGovern said of Murphy. "That's why we call him 'Magic Murph.' But we definitely take a little extra pride with Henry, with what he's been through and how he's sacrificed."

That balance definitely has Auburn's attention.

"You can pull out the sheets and look," Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "They're right up at the top in total offense, rushing and passing."

Running backs coach Brian Jones said he's made it a point to keep Josey fresh for "crunch time" like the third-and-1 play that produced the winning score against Texas A&M.

"He's sitting on the bench; at times he's all by himself," Jones said. "He's very aware of what's going on, very aware of the situation."

On the deciding play, McGovern and center Mitch Morse opened big holes. Wide receiver Jimmie Hunt contributed, too.

"All three of those guys had great blocks on that play, and Henry finished it off," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "It's always great when you see a guy return from an injury like he had and have the success he's had. It just makes you feel good."

Missouri bests West Virginia

Thursday, 05 December 2013 22:53 Published in Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Jordan Clarkson scored 25 points and Jabari Brown added 18 to help Missouri defeat West Virginia 80-71 Thursday night in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Missouri shot 53 percent from the floor, but its defense limited West Virginia to making 42 percent of its shots. The Mountaineers entered the game averaging 85.1 points and shooting nearly 50 percent, but only made eight of 29 shots in the first half.

Missouri (8-0) extended its national-best home-court winning streak to 23 games and has won 78 consecutive games at Mizzou Arena against non-conference competition.

Juwan Staten scored 16 points, while Gary Browne and Terry Henderson added 14 for West Virginia (6-3), which fell to 0-3 against power conference teams.

Missouri scored the first nine points and led throughout as West Virginia never established a rhythm until the end of the night. The Mountaineers also averaged 10 3-pointers per game before Thursday, but only converted one of their first 14 attempts until Browne's make with 7:51 remaining. They finished four for 19.

Earnest Ross added 16 points for the Tigers, who have won their first eight games for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Clarkson, Brown and Ross have combined for nearly two-thirds of the Tigers' scoring this season.

Missouri also out-rebounded West Virginia 40-32 after the Mountaineers grabbed 62 boards against Loyola Maryland, their most since 64 in a contest against Radford in 1992. West Virginia had been averaging four more boards per game than its opponents.

The Mountaineers used a 9-2 run to pull within 27-20 with 4:36 remaining in the first half, but Missouri countered with an identical run to take a 36-22 halftime lead. After Devin Williams opened the second half with a layup, Missouri then scored the next five points.

West Virginia again narrowed the lead late in the second half, as Staten capped a 17-5 run with a layup with 1:45 left to narrow the Mountaineers' deficit to 73-64. After two free throws by the Tigers' Wes Clark, Rémi Dibo drained a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:10 left to make the score 75-67.

But the Mountaineers couldn't get any closer.

Staten (16) and Eron Harris (8) combined for 24 points after only scoring four total in the first half. The duo previously averaged nearly 37 for West Virginia, which has also lost to Virginia Tech and Wisconsin. Coaches picked the team to finish seventh in the 10-team Big 12 prior to the season as the team lost its final seven games last year and finished 13-19.

Missouri's new chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, attended the game and was introduced to fans in the first half. He then went into the stands to shake hands and pose for pictures with students. Currently the president of Texas A&M, Loftin will begin his new job as Missouri's leader on Feb. 1.

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