The No. 21 Missouri men’s basketball team met Notre Dame at the Sprint Center in Kansas City for the semifinal rounds of the CBE Classic on Monday night. The Tigers notched their biggest win of the season, picking apart the Fighting Irish by a score of 87-58.
After playing three opponents far outside the national radar, the Tigers ran into what was supposed to be their greatest test yet in the Irish, a team that had cruised through its first four games without its top player, 6-foot-8-inch forward Tim Abromaitis.
But in the 87-58 drubbing, MU made the Irish look like the same overwhelmed, plainly-outmatched teams the Tigers (4-0) have played all season.
Coach Frank Haith’s four-guard lineup continued to impress. Senior small forward Marcus Denmon’s 26 points spearheaded the attack, while sophomore point guard Phil Pressey paced the Tigers on offense and defense. Pressey finished the game with 17 points and collected three steals to add to Big 12-leading total of 13.
Abromaitis poured in 22 points for ND in his season debut, but his supporting cast was kept in check by the Tigers’ defense.
In a game that was thought to present matchup problems for a shorter MU team proved to be the exact opposite, as the Irish were the ones struggling to keep up with the full-court Tiger assault.
MU took command of the game’s tempo early in the first half. Even with senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe and Denmon picking up two early fouls each, the Tigers made adjustments to maintain control. At one point the Tigers strung together a 13-0 scoring run. The team finished the half with 63 percent shooting to take a 52-37 lead into the break.
The Tigers’ limited eight-man rotation seemingly lost no steam from the first half’s energized play and only allowed 21 points, only four of which came from Abromaitis. MU never trailed.
The Tigers will play in the CBE championship game at 9 p.m. Tuesday. The Tigers will take on No. 21 California, who advanced to the CBE final with a 70-46 victory over Georgia on Monday. MU last claimed the tournament crown in 2001.