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Haith: Tigers pleased to play in NIT

Monday, 17 March 2014 22:24 Published in Sports
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — For the first time in six years, the Missouri Tigers are left out of the NCAA tournament.
 
As expected, the Tigers failed to earn a spot in the field of 68 when the brackets were announced Sunday. Instead, Missouri (22-11) earned a No. 2 seed in the National Invitational Tournament and will play Southern Conference champion Davidson (20-12) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. It is Missouri's first NIT appearance since 2005.
 
"We're excited about playing in the NIT, a tournament that has great tradition," Missouri coach Frank Haith told the Columbia Tribune (http://bit.ly/1fRCfU2 ). "Obviously, our goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament every year, but we do have an opportunity to compete for a championship. There's a lot of teams that have unlaced their shoes."
 
Missouri was ranked in the top 25 early this season, but a 9-9 record in the Southeastern Conference doomed the chance for an NCAA berth. Just three SEC teams made the tournament field.
 
Missouri teams haven't fared well in past NIT appearances — the Tigers are 1-7 all-time, the lone victory over Murray State in the first round of the 1996 tournament. Missouri suffered first-round losses to Alabama-Birmingham in 1998, Michigan in 2004 and DePaul in 2005.
 
Davidson coach Bob McKillop's program has won in Columbia before, beating the Tigers 84-81 in an upset on Nov. 19, 2004 — Missouri's first loss in the new arena. The Tigers also lost to Davidson in 2005 but beat the Wildcats in 2006.
 
Adding insult to injury this season: Nine of the Missouri's former Big 12 Conference foes made the NCAA tournament — seven teams still in the Big 12 plus Colorado and Nebraska.
 
As he sat down to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, Haith wasn't sure how to feel about the Tigers' chances.
 
"I think we were right there on the bubble with a lot of teams," he said. "When I saw Tennessee become an 11 and then Kentucky was an 8/9, I just felt like they didn't have a lot of respect for our league. That's what I thought."
 
In fact, North Carolina State (21-13), the last team in the field, finished below Missouri in the RPI (Missouri was No. 49, the Wolfpack No. 55). Both teams were 9-9 in their leagues and Missouri beat North Carolina State on Dec. 28 in Raleigh, N.C. But North Carolina State had the nation's 33rd toughest schedule. Missouri's schedule ranked 68th.
 
Missouri also posted victories over then-No. 18 UCLA and Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan as part of a 12-1 non-conference record that vaulted the Tigers as high as No. 21 in the national polls.
 
The SEC opener was an overtime loss at home to Georgia, and the Tigers never had a signature win. They needed to make a run in the SEC tournament but lost to No. 1 Florida in the quarterfinals.

4 Mizzou athletes arrested on pot suspicion

Monday, 17 March 2014 22:20 Published in Sports
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Four Missouri athletes were arrested Saturday night on suspicion of possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana during a traffic stop in Columbia.
 
Guards Wes Clark and Shane Rector of the basketball team and defensive backs Aarion Penton and Shaun Rupert from the football team were pulled over at 11:32 p.m. after Columbia police noticed an expired rear license plate tag on Rupert's car, police spokeswoman Latisha Stroer said Monday.
 
The officers approached the car and detected the smell of marijuana, prompting the discovery of a package of Swisher Sweets cigarillos containing a substance that tested positive for marijuana, Stroer said. The four athletes were each issued a court summons and released.
 
Columbia residents passed a referendum in 2004 that reduced penalties for the offense to no more than a court summons and a fine, if found guilty, of up to $250. The reductions do not apply to anyone found guilty of misdemeanor possession of marijuana on two or more occasions in the past five years.
 
The Columbia Daily Tribune first reported the arrests.
 
Basketball coach Frank Haith said Monday that Clark and Rector were suspended for the team's practice, but not necessarily for Tuesday's NIT opener against Davidson.
 
"I didn't know about it soon enough," Haith said, adding that the final decision would be made after gathering additional information.
 
Missouri missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years after finishing 22-11 and 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference.
 
Clark, a freshman from Detroit, has played in all 33 games this season as a backup point guard, averaging 20.4 minutes and 4.1 points. Rector, a freshman from New York, has averaged 4.3 minutes and 0.5 points.
 
With Tony Criswell suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules and Corey Haith out with an injury, Missouri's bench would shrink to forwards Danny Feldmann, Torren Jones and Keanau Post, leaving Jordan Clarkson with no backups at point guard.
 
"You want me to dress out?" Haith said, slightly exasperated. "Who else can I put in? That could be a problem. It is what it is."
 
Penton is currently atop the depth chart at cornerback after appearing in every game of Missouri's 12-2 season last fall as a freshman. He recorded 16 tackles and an interception while Rupert, a safety, redshirted in his first year with the team.
 
Both Penton and Rupert were suspended indefinitely after the athletics department learned of their arrests, spokesman Chad Moller said. Their long-term status with the team would be determined after an internal review.

Backes scores 2, Miller wins again for Blues

Monday, 17 March 2014 22:18 Published in Sports
 
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- David Backes scored twice, and Ryan Miller made 16 saves in another win as the St. Louis Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 on Monday night.
 
The Blues are 7-0-1 since Miller was acquired by trade from Buffalo. St. Louis has won three straight and eight of nine.
 
Western Conference-leading St. Louis has an NHL-best 101 points. It is the sixth time in franchise history that the Blues have reached 100 points.
 
Backes has 23 goals this season. Brendan Morrow added a goal, and Jay Bouwmeester had two assists in the Blues' win.
 
Eric O'Dell had the lone goal for Winnipeg, and Al Montoya made 23 saves.
 
The Blues won despite the absence of players Vladimir Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie.
 
Tarasenko is expected to miss six weeks because of a hand injury sustained Saturday against Nashville. Oshie, whose first child was born earlier Monday, should be back for Wednesday's game at Chicago.
 
Backes broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 13:09 of the third period when he swatted in a rebound of Ian Cole's shot.
 
With 1:11 left, Backes was awarded a goal when he broke in on the Jets' empty net and was pulled down by Jacob Trouba.
 
After a listless first period, St. Louis took a 1-0 lead just 1:44 into the second. After Winnipeg's Devin Setoguchi failed to control a bouncing puck, Derek Roy took it and broke in on left wing. He centered a pass to Morrow on the right side for a shot into the open net.
 
The Jets took advantage during 4-on-4 play to tie it at 1:55 of the third. Evander Kane skated down left wing with O'Dell on a 2-on-1 break. Kane centered a pass to O'Dell, who faked a shot and then beat Miller with a backhand.
 
NOTES: St. Louis is 38-1-5 when scoring first and 30-0-4 when leading after two periods. ... Winnipeg is 8-13-5 against the Central Division. ... Blues coach Ken Hitchcock moved into sole possession of third place on the team's career win list with 119.
 

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