Midnight strikes early
Last year's Cinderella SIU dropped by Mizzou in first roundPosted: Thursday March 20, 2003 6:20 PM
Updated: Thursday March 20, 2003 7:31 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Rickey Paulding wanted the ball for the final seconds Thursday.
So he didn't hesitate to do what he does best -- put it on the floor.
Paulding drew a questionable blocking foul with 4.1 seconds left, then made one of two free throws as sixth-seeded Missouri survived another Southern Illinois upset bid with a 72-71 victory in the Midwest Regional.
Kent Williams' potential game-winning 3-pointer glanced off the rim.
"Arthur Johnson posted up real strong, so I wanted to take the drive and make a play," Paulding said.
Jermaine Dearman fouled Paulding as he drove to the basket, prompting Southern Illinois to question the call.
"You don't make a call at the end of the game," Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "The guy's out of control."
It was the combination of Paulding and Johnson that led the Tigers to the second round, where they will play Marquette on Saturday.
Paulding finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Johnson had 24 points and 11 rebounds, one short of his season-high.
But Missouri (22-10) also overcame sloppy play, a sluggish start and another strong performance from the Salukis, who reached the round of 16 last year by surprising Texas Tech and Georgia.
This time Missouri made sure there was no magic.
When Southern Illinois (24-7) got the ball to Williams, the school's No. 2 scorer with 2,012 points, the Tigers contested the shot. That forced Williams to fling up an off-balanced shot from the left wing that missed as the buzzer sounded.
"I had about as good a look as you can get," said Williams, who finished with 16 points. "It just didn't go in."
For the Tigers, it was a strange game.
They committed a season-high 23 turnovers and Paulding, the Tigers' top scorer, missed his first five shots and was held scoreless for the first 18 minutes. The teams traded the lead 20 times, and in the game's closing minutes when it appeared Missouri might pull away, Southern Illinois would not let it happen.
But it was Missouri's strong inside play, particularly from Johnson and Paulding, that proved the difference.
"It's like Nerf basketball when you're a kid," Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "There are all these monsters in there."
The 11th-seeded Salukis had other problems, too. They went just 11-of-21 from the free-throw line and could not match the power of the Tigers' talented front line.
Yet Southern Illinois followed almost the same script it did a year ago by staying close throughout and waiting for a chance to win it.
The Salukis went on an 11-2 run to take a 64-58 lead with 5:06 remaining.
Missouri answered with a 3-pointer from Jimmy McKinney, a runner from Paulding, four free throws from Johnson and mid-range jumpers from Paulding and Johnson to retake the lead, 71-67, with 1:50 to go.
A layup from Jermaine Dearman, who had 17 points, tied the score at 71 with 25.2 seconds left.
Then, on the Tigers final possession Paulding called for the ball -- and got it. He put the ball on the floor, drove the lane and drew the blocking call on Dearman.
But when Paulding missed the first free throw, the Salukis knew they still had a chance.
Paulding backed away from the line, collected his thoughts and didn't second-guess himself.
"I was confident I was going to make the free throw," he said. "I had to step off the line and catch my breath again.
"I just wanted to take the last shot."