The past 48 hours have been loud for the Missouri men’s basketball team.
The team made its first major statement Monday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City where the Tigers routed Notre Dame in the semi-final round of the College Basketball Experience Classic. The Tigers roared an even bigger statement Tuesday with a 92-53 wallop over No. 18 California for the tournament crown.
The victory gave the No. 21 Tigers (5-0) their first CBE Classic championship since 2001.
On its way to the CBE hardware, MU displayed a feisty defense that kept opponents uncomfortable and an offensive attack that yielded defenses busted.
Tuesday night, first-year coach Frank Haith’s rotation of eight players carried over the energy it had from the previous night. The Tigers’ four-guard unit claimed the pace of the matchup against the Golden Bears quickly, just as they did against the Irish a night before. Cal’s strong backcourt, led by gritty guard Jorge Gutierrez, struggled to match MU’s intensity.
At the end of the first half, the Tigers snagged 14 turnovers from the Bears and gained momentum through transition, converting on 15 points. Senior guard Kim English played an all-around half and took four charges.
After senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe committed an early two fouls, senior center Steve Moore came off the bench and gave the Tigers a lift with his career-high 10 points, including a top-of-the-key three-pointer. He provided the extra minutes and production that he knew would come after senior forward Laurence Bowers’ season-ending injury in the preseason.
“I’m going to have to be mentally, emotionally and physical tough and play all the minutes coach puts me in,” he said at the end of October.
English led all scorers with 19 points and earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Senior guard Marcus Denmon added 18 points along with five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
MU only trailed for a total of 76 seconds between its two CBE games.
Missouri will play Binghamton on Sunday at Mizzou Arena.