No. 22 Missouri Defeats No. 8 Virginia

Monday, February 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri's Arthur Johnson wanted to win so much, it drove him to tears.

Johnson scored 16 points to go with Kareem Rush's 26 Sunday, leading No. 22 Missouri past No. 8 Virginia 81-77.

``Before the game, A.J.'s got tears running down his face,'' Missouri coach Quin Snyder said of his sophomore center. ``Before the game, he wants it so bad. I think it's really easy to forget what we're talking about here with some of these guys and how young they are.''

Johnson was happy after the win, which could keep Missouri (16-6) in the Top 25 even after a 105-73 loss to No. 2 Kansas last week.

``I was a little emotional,'' a smiling Johnson said. ``I wanted to win real bad. It's never happened to me before. It was right before we came in.''

It was the first win for Missouri in five tries against Virginia, which lost a regular-season nonconference game for the first time since Dec. 4, 1999.

The Cavaliers won 27 straight regular-season games outside the Atlantic Coast Conference, including a 85-72 home win against the Tigers last year.

``We lost, but I couldn't ask for my team to do any more,'' Virginia coach Pete Gillen said.

In other Top 25 games Sunday, No. 3 Maryland beat North Carolina State 89-73, and Michigan State defeated No. 12 Illinois 67-61.

After scoring just seven points with four rebounds against Kansas, Johnson returned to form against the Cavaliers. He shot 6-of-9, made all four of his free throws and grabbed eight rebounds.

Johnson's improvement almost matched that of Rush, who topped his 13-point performance against Kansas by halftime and wound up scoring more than 20 points against a ranked team for the first time this season.

``He (Snyder) challenged me and A.J. a couple of days ago and told us to give more,'' Rush said. ``In the last couple of days of practice I've been trying to give my all. You practice how you play.''

It was the third straight loss for Virginia (14-5), which started the season 9-0. Chris Williams led the Cavaliers with 18 points. J.C. Mathis and Mason added 13 each, and Elton Brown had 12.

``We're beat up emotionally and physically,'' 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.''

The Cavaliers were down 40-38 at halftime, despite shooting 61 percent. They finished at 55 percent, but committed 20 turnovers to Missouri's 10.

``Turnovers killed us,'' Gillen said. ``We dribbled too much and didn't take care of it. It was a physical game, a lot of hand checking, but you have to adjust to that. In a game like that, you have to be strong with the ball, and we weren't.''

The game was the Tigers' third in the last four against a Top 10 team. They get something of a break in their next three, with games against Iowa State, Baylor and Nebraska _ all the in lower half of the Big 12 standings.

``There are very few teams that get better in February,'' Snyder said. ``In my experience as a player and assistant and a coach, if you can improve in February, you give yourself a decent chance at the end of the year.''

Missouri's Clarence Gilbert had 11 points and moved past John Brown into 10th place on the Missouri career scoring list with 1,432 points. He's 16 short of Ricky Frazier in ninth.

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.

Virginia's Adam Hall, who returned earlier this week after missing five games with torn tissue in his right foot, did not play.

No. 3 Maryland 89, North Carolina State 73

Juan Dixon scored 27 points, including seven in a 16-2 second-half run that carried Maryland past North Carolina State.

Lonny Baxter had 16 points for the Terrapins, who kept pace with top-ranked Duke atop the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland (18-3, 8-1) is off to its best start in the ACC since 1980.

Anthony Grundy scored 19 points for the Wolfpack (16-6, 5-4), who have lost 20 of 23 to Maryland, including 13 straight on the road. N.C. State had won five straight road games since losing at Ohio State on Nov. 27.

Michigan State 67, No. 12 Illinois 61

Scoring leader Marcus Taylor left the game with a concussion after banging his head on the court early in the second half, but Michigan State ended Illinois' 28-game home winning streak.

Adam Ballinger scored 18 points for Michigan State (13-8, 4-4 Big Ten). Taylor, averaging 15.3 points, finished with 12. Michigan State held Illinois (15-7, 4-5) to 39 percent shooting.

Brian Cook had 22 points and Frank Williams 19 for Illinois.