All season, coach Mike Anderson preached defense comes first on his team, and the offense will follow. That philosophy was evident Saturday afternoon as the Tigers roasted Oregon, 106-69.
“We’re going to hang our hats on our defense,” Anderson said. “Our offense will take place. They just have to have a little patience with one another. We’ve got a lot of versatile parts, very much so like we had last year. Now we’ve just got to get those guys to be more consistent.”
On Saturday, the Tigers used their defense to generate their offense. The team forced 20 turnovers and converted those into 38 points. In addition, Missouri had six players reach double digits in points. The game was one that Anderson felt the team clicking right away.
“I thought we brought the focus, we brought the intensity and I thought they brought the toughness,” Anderson said. “We started that early in the game, and before you knew it you saw our team in that unselfish mode of trusting one another defensively as well as offensively. We made them work for everything they had.”
By the end of the first half, Missouri held a comfortable 53-24 lead. As the Tigers seemed to drain every field goal and every 3-point shot, it was the defense that separated the two teams. In the first 20 minutes, the Tigers shot 60 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from beyond the arc. On the other side of the ball, they held the Ducks to a paltry field goal percentage of 24.2, and limited their 3-point shooting to 23.1 percent.
As good as Missouri’s defense was, Oregon had trouble taking advantage of its numerous scoring opportunities. The Ducks outrebounded the Tigers on the offensive side of the ball 24-9, but Missouri still controlled the tempo of the game.
“We played a good Oregon team well on the defensive end,” sophomore guard Marcus Denmon said. “They weren’t making shots, and I think that that had a lot to do with our defensive intensity and pressure we were putting on them.”
The Ducks constantly felt the pressure provided by the home team.
“Their athleticism and their skill, I thought, was much better than ours in this basketball game,” Oregon coach Ernie Kent said. “It’s hard to simulate being on the road, and being on a team’s home court.”
As dominant as the Tigers have been at home – they have won 23 in a row at Mizzou Arena – they have struggled on the road. Saturday’s win snapped a two-game losing streak that was extended in a tough loss against Vanderbilt on Thursday. Missouri used that game as motivation against Oregon.
“We were hungry,” senior guard Zaire Taylor said. “There are some guys on this team, myself included, who have gone through a two-game losing streak. So we had to wake up today. I felt like this was a must-win. I’ve said that before, and coach said otherwise. So if it wasn’t a must-win, then it was a really, really important win.”