Missouri helped coach Mike Anderson celebrate his 50th birthday Saturday, but his players saw no reason for physical presents.
“I mean, if it’s illegal for him to give me something, I figured I should be the same way,” senior forward Zaire Taylor said.
Instead, Missouri gave Anderson what he really wanted: another win. The Tigers pounced all over Fairleigh Dickinson, winning 87-36.
“I thought the energy level was really good tonight, and that started with our defense,” Anderson said. “That triggered our offense. And I’ll say it again. When this team plays with that kind of energy and they’re on the same page defensively, a lot of good things take place for them.”
That stingy defense was on display again Saturday night. After limiting Fairleigh Dickinson to 20 points in the first half, the Tigers clamped down and held the Knights to 16 points in the second half. The Knights did not score a point in the second half until close to nine minutes into play.
In the more than 11-minute gap between Fairleigh Dickinson’s next points, the Tigers ripped off 25 points to put the game out of reach. When the Knights finally scored, Missouri’s lead was 65-22.
“The first half probably took a lot out of Fairleigh Dickinson,” Anderson said. “Can you imagine playing 20 minutes? Eighteen minutes? Seventeen minutes? And here I am playing guys 10 minutes, nine minutes, eight minutes. And we’re coming at you in waves.”
Sophomore guard Kim English was a force for Missouri, especially early in the game. He scored 11 of his 20 points in the first 3:30 of the game to put the Tigers up 15-5.
“Kimmie is always fired up, just in general” sophomore forward Laurence Bowers said. “He’s an energy guy off the court. And it showed in this game. He came out and played lights out.”
But English had plenty of help from his teammates as well. Bowers lit up the arena with two highlight reel alley-oops and added 12 points for the Tigers.
Freshman guard Michael Dixon, whom Anderson referred to as a “pest” on the floor, took advantage of an opportunity to start. Dixon scored 10 points, dished out five assists and stood out in the mind of the rest of the Tigers.
“Mike played some real good basketball,” Taylor said. “He had a 5-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And then Kim clearly stands out with 20 points, but really it was a balanced attack. It seems like everybody shot the ball well. We played well as a whole. I don’t think it was an individual effort.”
Missouri’s next challenge is to bring that energy and team mentality on the road. Saturday marked the Tigers’ 24th consecutive home win, including a 5-0 mark this year. The struggles pick up for the Tigers on the road. Missouri is 1-3 away from Mizzou Arena.
Bowers said he doesn’t want Missouri’s inability to win on the road become its trademark.
“We definitely don’t want to be home boys,” Bowers said.