Just as quickly as Texas Tech won the opening tip and looked to take an early advantage with an easy layup, senior guard J.T. Tiller swooped in to block the finger roll.
When the Red Raiders tried to get to the bucket on their next possession, Tiller stepped in again, this time intercepting a pass and then leading a fast break where he scored after a pretty give-and-go.
“He’s Mr. Blue-Collar,” coach Mike Anderson said. “The guy’s everywhere.”
Active hands were the edge in Missouri’s 97-86.
“Our whole mentality coming into the game was the defensive approach,” Tiller said. “That’s how I get my butterflies out. Get the team cranking and bringing energy.”
Texas Tech turned over the ball 18 times in the first half as Missouri forced 10 steals and blocked five shots. For the second straight game the Tigers scored more than 50 points by the half.
“We want our defense to make our offense,” senior forward DeMarre Carroll said. “We like to have chaos. A crazy chaos.”
Freshman guard Kim English provided the spark that Missouri needed early by hitting two three-pointers that helped put the Tigers up 10-1.
And while the starters did their part early, Anderson was able to bring in his bench, which made a nice run of its own. Freshman guard Marcus Denmon drilled a three-pointer to start the rally.
Back-to-back steals then led to a two-handed dunk by Carroll and a nifty reverse layup to put Missouri up 22-10.
Carroll led the Tigers in the first half with 12 points, but right behind him was fellow senior forward Leo Lyons with 11 points. After a one-game suspension against Colorado, Lyons has lost his starting spot to junior forward Keith Ramsey.
Lyons was able to make his biggest impact from the free-throw line where he went eight for eight. As a team the Tigers shot over 71 percent from the stripe, a place where they have struggled all season long.
Both teams came out of halftime playing extremely aggressively. And while Missouri failed to open up a huge lead and put the game away, Tech also struggled to close the gap. Missouri floated around a 10 to 15 point lead most of the half.
With seven minutes remaining in the game Tiller picked up his fourth foul and took a seat on the bench, bringing in Denmon.
Denmon came in and air balled a three-point attempt, setting up a Texas Tech three, which brought the score to 70-77, silencing the 13,357 fans inside Mizzou Arena.
Denmon quickly turned things around by scoring seven straight points. After a layup and two free throws, he received a pass about two feet behind the three-point line. He hesitated, spotted up and drained the bomb putting Missouri up 85-70 and erupting the stadium.
“I’m always confident when I get a good look,” Denmon said.
From there Carroll took over. He pounded inside the post, continually beating his defender one-on-one. Carroll finished the game with 27 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Tigers were able to hold off Tech’s attempt at a late rally, showing that they learned from their near-meltdown against Oklahoma State, where the Tigers let a 20-point lead slip to a two-point advantage.
“We learned a lot,” Carroll said. “Coach harped on us all week about not playing not to lose.”
The Tigers have now won 14 consecutive games at Mizzou Arena — the most ever — and are 17-3 over and 4-1 in the Big 12.