COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri had been getting used to close contests before Saturday.
After playing three consecutive games that came down to the final possession, including two that went to overtime, the Tigers (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) took control early and went on to a 70-55 win over Presbyterian College.Justin Safford, the team's lone senior, had 14 points and six rebounds to lead Missouri (8-1)."That's the senior that's going to help our team," coach Mike Anderson said. "He looked really fluid out there and I thought he let the game come to him."Phil Pressey, a freshman, had a career-high nine assists for Missouri -- the same amount he had in his previous six games combined -- and the Tigers had a season-high 23 as a team.Pressey, son of former NBA player Paul Pressey, was one of Anderson's most heralded recruits entering this season. He says he's noticed the freshman point guard's struggles over the past few games."That's what we brought him here to do," he said. "Hopefully Pressey aint pressing no more."Two of those assists came on electrifying alley-oop passes, including one to Justin Safford from near the half-court line that warranted the loudest ovation of the afternoon. Safford said after the game he was surprised the freshman saw him from such a distance."You know, he just makes the game easier," Safford said. "Being out there on the floor like that with a guy who creates for everybody."Kim English also added 14 for the Tigers, including four 3-pointers. The Tigers connected on eight shots from beyond the arc in the first half alone.Ryan Hargrave led Presbyterian College (3-6) with 14 points, while Al'Lonzo Coleman and Jake Troyli each had 10. Hargrave came in averaging only four points."I lost the game in the first half, I didn't think we could play these guys man-to-man," coach Gregg Nibert said. "We played them zone and I just saw an unbelievable ranked team that really causes a lot of problems."The meeting is the first between the schools in any sport. The loss drops the Blue Hose to 0-20 against schools from BCS conferences.Marcus Denmon added 12 points for Missouri just days after the loss of his cousin Marion. The two grew up together and Denmon refers to him as his little brother.Denmon said there was never a question he would miss any time because of the loss."It's always tough for anyone who loses a loved one," he said. "These guys are like my brothers too and I just feel like they needed me here and I'm sure my cousin would have still wanted me to be here playing."The Tigers used a 21-4 run over nine minutes of the first half to pull away. Denmon knocked down two 3-pointers and had eight of his 12 points during the surge."It's nice to have a chance to play a game like this because some of our guys have played a lot of minutes," Denmon said. "They give guys that normally aren't able to play as much a chance to do things and show coach that they're able to help us."The nonconference victory is the 52nd in a row for the Tigers at home dating to the 2005-06 season. All but seven of those wins have come under Anderson.