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Feb 3, 2002

Box Score | Video Highlights and Postgame Comments

Associated Press Writer

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri answered some of the questions that arose after a humbling loss to archrival Kansas.

Kareem Rush rebounded from one of his worst games of the season to score 26 points as No. 22 Missouri handed No. 8 Virginia its third straight loss, 81-77 Sunday.

It’s a win that could keep Missouri, ranked as high as second earlier this season, in the Top 25 despite Monday’s 105-73 loss to No. 2 Kansas.

“I’m not going to fall into ‘The sky is falling and now all of the sudden it’s 85 and sunny,”‘ coach Quin Snyder said. “I think we can play better, but it’s good to be able to come tomorrow to practice and have that to say, ‘Hey, we did that.”‘

Virginia had won 27 straight regular season games outside the Atlantic Coast Conference since Dec. 4, 1999. The streak included an 85-72 victory over Missouri last year in Charlottesville, Va. Missouri (16-6) won for the first time in five tries against the Cavaliers.

“Nothing that I did say this week or didn’t say last week made a difference,” Snyder said. “We’ve made adjustments, obviously, but nothing really changed. Our kids are growing up.”

Perhaps none more than Rush, who finally turned in a star performance against a ranked opponent, topping 20 points for the first time this season against a team in the Top 25. He scored just 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting against Kansas.

He was 10-of-20, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, on Sunday.

“I wasn’t worried about my scoring,” said Rush, who also had four steals. “Once I lose focus on scoring, it tends to come a little bit easier. Coach has been saying that all year, and you want to believe him, but sometimes you just don’t.”

Arthur Johnson scored 16 for the Tigers, Ricky Paulding added 14 and Clarence Gilbert 11. Missouri played a team ranked in the Top Ten for the third time in four games.

“We needed it real bad to kind of let people know we’re not the biggest joke around,” Johnson said.

The Cavaliers’ three straight losses have all come against ranked teams. Virginia (14-5) started the season 9-0.

“We lose games like this, I can live with it,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. “I hate losing more than anybody in our locker room, but I’m as proud tonight as I was when we got some good wins early in the year.”

Johnson rebounded and laid-in a botched alley-oop to give Missouri a 62-56 lead with 10:03 left. Virginia closed to 62-61, but the Tigers went on a 12-2 run, getting seven points from Paulding, to take a 74-66 lead with about three minutes left.

Virginia pulled to 75-72 with 1:19 remaining, and Roger Mason Jr.’s jumper with 32 seconds left made it 77-75.

The Cavaliers started fouling, and around Jermaine Harper’s inside bucket with 16 second left, Rush and Gilbert were perfect in trips to the free-throw line.

Chris Williams led the Cavaliers with 18 points. J.C Mathis and Mason added 13 each, and Elton Brown had 12.

“We’ve had a tough week playing Duke and Maryland, a game we should’ve won,” Gillen said. “But for them to put forth that great of an effort against a good team like Missouri, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Gilbert moved past John Brown and into 10th place on the Missouri career scoring list with 1,432 points. He’s 16 short of Ricky Frazier in ninth.

Missouri led 40-38 at halftime, despite Virginia’s 61 percent shooting. Rush had 15 in the half.

Missouri freshman Najeeb Echols missed his first game of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. Echols, expected to be out 3-to-4 weeks, was averaging 3.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 17 minutes.

Adam Hall, who returned earlier this week after missing five games with torn tissue in his right foot for Virginia, did not dress for Sunday’s game.

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