GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Missouri went down swinging in a spirited end to an impressive NCAA tournament run.
Denied their first trip to the Final Four in an 82-75 loss to Connecticut in the West Regional final Saturday, the feisty Tigers mixed disappointment with the promise of a bright future for coach Mike Anderson's program.
``I think this is just the beginning,'' guard Zaire Taylor said. ``This is the tip of the iceberg.''
Anderson, in three seasons, transformed the Tigers into an ``in-your-face,'' high-energy team that ended Memphis' 27-game winning streak on Thursday 102-91 and stayed close, but didn't quite have enough, against the powerful Huskies on Saturday.
``They came out the same way they came in this season,'' Anderson said of his team. ``They came in fighting, scratching and clawing and if you are going to go out, that's the way you want to go out - fighting, scratching and clawing, giving yourself a chance.''
A statistic that best describes the Tigers: The team finished the season with a school record 388 steals in 38 games, including 10 against Connecticut.
verall, the Huskies had an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers against the Tigers.
Missouri (31-7), which set a school record for wins, led Connecticut 50-49 with 13 1/2 minutes to play and it was 54-all when the Tigers' Leo Lyons made a jumper with 8:33 to play. The Tigers were down 67-63 after J.T. Tiller's jumper with 3:33 to go.
Connecticut slowly pulled away from there.
``Maybe when I'm 40 and have some kids, I can look back and maybe tell them the story and look at this in a positive way,'' Taylor said. ``We had some good things happen this season. We broke some records, we made some history. But at the end of the day we didn't come in and win.''
One year after going 16-16 and finishing 10th in the Big 12, Missouri won the conference tournament run.
``Well, we came from nothing,'' senior Matt Lawrence said, ``and I'm pretty sure no one expected us to get here except for the guys in our locker room. I have never been a part of a team that was more cohesive than this one.''
There were four seniors on Missouri's team - Lawrence, DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and the coach's son, Michael Anderson Jr.
``I'm going to miss these dudes something serious, you know what I mean?'' Tiller said. ``Because without them, we wouldn't even have got this far. They built this program up. I'm just following their lead.''
be seven coming back with significant NCAA tournament experience.
``It ain't nothing new if we come back to this same place,'' junior Keith Ramsey said. ``If anything, that's going to get us better and we're going to get over this hump.''
Guards Taylor and Tiller will be back for their senior season. The returnees include sharpshooting sophomore Justin Safford along with four freshmen who were in the rotation - Kim English, Miguel Paul, Marcus Denmon and Laurence Bowers.
``I think the future's bright,'' Ramsey said. ``We've got J.T. and Zaire coming back and we've got some great recruits. I don't think this is going to stop here. We're going to keep on progressing and things are going to get better for us.''
Coach Anderson, a disciple of Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, called it ``a phenomenal season.''
The first of many perhaps. The school already is talking about a contract extension for the coach.
Whatever success lies in the future, he'll have a special spot for this team.
``All the hard work they put in, all the dedication,'' Anderson said. ``They brought back a sense of pride in Missouri basketball that hadn't been there for a while. For that, I thank them.''

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