COLUMBIA, Mo. -- With four guards and a 6-foot-8 forward in
the starting lineup, height-challenged Missouri doesn't expect to
rely much on its inside presence. After an early-season rout
against Niagara on Thursday night, that approach may not be
necessary for the Tigers.
Marcus Denmon scored 22 points to lead five Missouri players in
double figures, and the Tigers (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) rode a hot-shooting first
half to an easy 83-52 win.
Kim English added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey and sixth-man Michael Dixon scored 12 points
each for Missouri (3-0) in its final regional game of the College
Basketball Experience Classic before facing Notre Dame and either
California or Georgia next week in Kansas City.
"We take what the defense gives us," said English, a 6-foot-6
shooter starting at power forward after the preseason loss of
6-foot-8 starter Laurence Bowers to a knee injury. "We have four
guards out there. It's kind of pick your poison."
Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason led Niagara (1-1) with 10 points
each. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school shot 34 percent
overall and made just five of its 26 attempts from long range, all
in the second half once the game was out of hand.
Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said his young team -- the Purple
Eagles start three freshmen and a sophomore -- played "scared" and
"We wasted that opportunity to have a good learning
experience," he said. "We're still searching for an identity
here. We don't know who we are yet."
Missouri went 12 of 22 from beyond the arc, with nine of those
coming in the first half on 14 attempts. Missouri also had 13
steals -- led by point guard Phil Pressey with five -- and forced 16
On the offensive side, the Tigers had just three turnovers in a
pivotal first half and seven overall. New Missouri coach Frank
Haith, who wants to bring a more disciplined, full-court approach
to replace his predecessor Mike Anderson's "fastest 40 minutes"
style, liked what he saw.
"I thought it was the best game we've played," Haith said.
"Nobody was really hunting shots."
Missouri's four-guard lineup repeatedly beat the similarly
undersized Purple Eagles to loose balls and long rebounds. The
Purple Eagles play just as small, with four guards and a 6-foot-8
forward as starters. Other than 6-foot-9 reserve Steve Moore, the
6-foot-8 Ratliffe is Missouri's tallest player.
Phil Pressey was especially active on defense, with two nifty
saves of loose balls headed out of bounds igniting fast breaks. He
had a behind-the-back save in first half and a no-look,
over-the-head down court toss in the second. The 5-foot-10 Pressey
also had a crowd-pleasing breakaway dunk to extend Missouri's lead
to 34 points with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game.
Niagara scored the game's first point but was never in it after
that. Missouri led by as many as 40 midway through the second half
after a 26-9 run, allowing Haith to insert little-used walk-on
Jarrett Sutton with 11 minutes remaining. He was joined by fellow
walk-on Andy Rosburg in the game's final minutes.
Matt Pressey capped the first half with a 3-pointer at the
buzzer, giving Missouri a 45-22 lead, its biggest of the game at
that point. Missouri began the second half the same way it closed
the first, with a Denmon 3-pointer from the left corner extending
the lead to 26 points.
Denmon was 5 for 8 from 3-point range, English was 4 of 6 and
Pressey 2 of 3. Missouri's 12 treys topped its previous season high
against Mercer by one.
The Tigers' 3-point shooting percentage of 55 percent easily
exceeded their success from two-point range, where they shot under
24 percent and converted just 13 baskets.
Missouri extended its school-record winning streak over
nonconference opponents at home to 61 games, dating to their
2005-06 season opener.