SAN DIEGO — This is the University of Missouri-Kansas City's first season at the Division I level in basketball, a fact that seemed to impress neither the University of San Diego nor the referees Wednesday night.
USD sleepwalked through a good portion of the first half before awakening against the Kangaroos. The Toreros went on a 10-0 run right before the half, and eventually defeated Missouri-Kansas City, 69-60, in front of 522 in the USD Sports Center.
Less impressed by Missouri-Kansas City, however, seemed to be the officials, who called only 13 personal fouls on USD the entire night. Missouri-Kansas City was charged with 29 fouls, which led to USD shooting 40 foul shots to the Kangaroos' 11. It made 28 to 6 for Missouri-Kansas City, which did not shoot its first free throw until nearly eight minutes had elapsed in the second half.
Hank Egan, whose USD team improved to 5-4, took this as an indication that his team did not play too aggressively on defense.
"We played zone most of the night," Egan said. "We were just trying to contain them. I'm sure that's not how the other (coach) saw it, though."
Coach Lee Hunt, surely didn't. He noted it to the officials when his team finally went to the line with 12:26 left.
"I think the difference in the game was their being able to go the line and shoot free throws," Hunt said. "But that's just the way it goes sometimes."
Without much free throw shooting, Missouri-Kansas City still controlled the first 15 minutes, opening a 20-16 lead.
Egan kept running players into the game to try to gain some momentum.
He finally found the means to do it when Kelvin Means came in at point guard for the final six minutes of the first half. Although he had only one assist and did not score, Means seemed to ignite San Diego.
Freshman forward John Sayers seemed to benefit most, scoring eight first-half points en route to a season-high 16.
Sayers hit four consecutive free throws in the last two minutes to give USD a 24-20 lead and the Toreros never trailed again.
Against Brown two nights ago, Sayers missed all eight of his shots from the field and his only free throw. But he came back with a solid effort Wednesday night.
"If I knew what to tell a guy after he goes 0-for-5 (actually 0-for-8), I'd tell him," Egan said. "But, I think the only thing a player can do is come out the next day in practice and get back after it. He did that."
Sayers, a 6-foot 7-inch forward, was an academic All-American at Bellarmine Prep High School in San Jose last season, and he's smart enough not get too down on himself after an off-night.
"One cold shooting night like I had Monday isn't going to ruin your career," Sayers said. "I hit a couple of shots early and that got me going."
USD, which led 26-23 at the half, got things going early in the second half behind junior guard Danny Means and Sayers.
Danny Means opened the half with a three-pointer and a layin and two minutes later, Sayers hit a three-pointer to put USD ahead, 36-27.
Marty Munn, who scored a game-high 17 points, hit two three-pointers and Sayers made two more free throws to give USD its biggest lead, 57-41, with 8:12 remaining.
Missouri-Kansas City (1-4) could have packed it in at that point but instead responded with a 15-4 run, pulling within 61-56 on Mark Oliver's layup at the 3:21 mark.
But freshman Randy Thompson hit two free throws to put USD ahead by seven, and junior Mike Haupt came up with a crucial offensive rebound and a steal at the other end to keep the Toreros in control.
Haupt had only five points, all from the line, but had six rebounds and two steals.
"A coach's type of player is somebody who does the things necessary to help you win," Egan said. "And Haupt did those things in this game."
Nevertheless, Egan was worried about his team's lack of intensity early in the contest.
"We'll be practicing today and by then I'll have a chance to look some things over," Egan said. "We're still in a struggle as for what needs to be done out there. We've got to get that straightened out."