COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Kalen Grimes snatched the rebound, and the
6-foot-8 sophomore went up for the uncontested dunk that might have
put the exclamation point on a Missouri upset.
He didn't get up quite high enough. The ball clanged hard off
the rim and turned into a momentum swing that changed the game and
may have saved Texas A&M's NCAA tournament hopes as the Aggies
(17-6, 7-6 Big 12) rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit
Tuesday to beat Missouri 54-51.
"It was a real ugly win for us, and that's what we specialize
in," Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said.
Dominique Kirk scored eight points during the final 9:51 of the
game, including the 3-pointer from the corner that put Texas A&M
ahead 52-51 with 2:55 to play. The Aggies extended the lead to
three before Missouri's Thomas Gardner's last-second 3-point try
bounced off the rim.
Kirk, averaging 6.7 points per game, had just three points
before leading the comeback, and ended with 11. Acie Law had 15 for
Gardner had 21 for Missouri (11-13, 4-9), but just two on
1-for-9 shooting in the second half. Jimmy McKinney had 14.
The loss added to Missouri's misery. The Tigers have lost eight
of nine games and are 1-2 under interim coach Melvin Watkins, who
took over Feb. 10 after Quin Snyder resigned.
"We tend to beat ourselves," Watkins said. "We tend to get a
little hesitant and I just can't figure out why."
Missouri trailed 16-11 midway through the first half, then went
on a 15-0 run thanks in part to an 0-for-10 shooting span by Texas
A&M -- the Aggies went scoreless for 7:20. Gardner was 8-for-11 in
the first half as Missouri was up 33-28 at the break.
The Tigers were ahead 45-37 when Grimes missed the gimme dunk
with 12:19 to play. After extending the lead to 10 on their next
possession, the bottom fell out. The Tigers would score just four
points the rest of the way.
"I've never seen him miss that one," Missouri's Kevin Young
said. "Maybe he should have just laid it up, but he was pumped up
and he wanted to make a big play."
Watkins said of Grimes, "I know he felt bad about it. He knows
we needed that bucket and he tried to dunk it and it just bounced
off. Had he had a chance to do it over he might use two hands."
Kirk began the comeback with a basket with 9:51 to play. Chris
Walker closed the gap to 51-49 on a 3-pointer with 4:55 to play.
Two minutes later, Kirk's 3-pointer put the Aggies ahead for good.
The Aggies have won four straight and moved into sole possession
of fifth place in the conference, a half-game ahead of Nebraska.
But unless Texas A&M moves up in the standings with games remaining
against Nebraska, Texas and Texas Tech, or has a strong showing in
the Big 12 tournament, the question is whether fifth place is good
enough to get into the tournament in what is generally considered a
down year for the conference.
Barring a miracle run in the conference tourney, Missouri's
tumultuous season is winding to a merciful close. The Tigers were
overachieving at 10-5 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12 after beating
Kansas in overtime on Jan. 16.
Since then, Missouri has lost eight of nine, with seven of the
losses by double-digits, and dropped to next-to-last in the Big 12.
They've also lost their coach amid a soap opera that has
embarrassed the university.
Snyder said on Feb. 9 he would not resign, but did so a day
later after a talk with Gary Link, an associate of athletic
director Mike Alden. Snyder said he was told in no uncertain terms
that he could step aside or be fired.
Alden at first denied that he sent Link to see if Snyder might
want to resign. But in an interview for his radio show Monday, he
seemed to back away from that statement, saying he wished he had
not sent Link.
Chancellor Brady Deaton performed an initial investigation,
concluding there were communications mistakes but nothing more. But
several Missouri curators were unconvinced. On Monday, university
president Elson Floyd ordered a second, independent investigation.