January hadn't been the kindest month for Missouri senior forward Leo Lyons until last Saturday.
On Jan. 11, Lyons was arrested for multiple traffic offenses, leading to a suspension for Missouri's Jan. 14 game against Colorado. Lyons then lost his starting spot to junior Keith Ramsey and proceeded to average less than 12 points per game in a reserve role during the next four games.
But on Saturday at Mizzou Arena, Lyons ended January by returning to the starting lineup in a big way, scoring a career-high 30 points as Missouri defeated Baylor, 89-72.
"I knew I had to do something special and work as hard as I could when he gave me another opportunity," said Lyons, who had no idea he was going to start until he arrived at Mizzou Arena.
Coach Mike Anderson said Lyons' return to a starting role was positive for the team.
"That's the Leo we want to see and hopefully that's a sign of things to come," Anderson said.
In addition to setting his career high and leading his team to victory, Lyons scored the 1,000th point of his career on a free throw with two minutes remaining in the game. After the game, Lyons said he didn't even know he was approaching the milestone.
"I didn't know I was that close and I'm pretty sure no one thought I was going to score 30 so they didn't even tell me," Lyons said. "I'm proud to be a part of that club."
Lost in the Lyons redemption story was yet another workmanlike effort from junior guard J.T. Tiller. Tiller had a career-high eight assists to accompany 10 points, seven rebounds, two steals and no turnovers.
"He's the heart and soul of our basketball team," Anderson said.
The match between Baylor and Missouri was billed as an offensive shootout. Both Missouri and Baylor entered the game in top three Big 12 spots for scoring average, at 84.8 and 82.2 points per game, respectively.
The game was played in front of the first announced sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena since the Jan. 19, 2008, game against Kansas. Saturday's game was Missouri's first sellout against an opponent other than Kansas since Feb. 3, 2007, when Missouri lost to Nebraska, 66-61.
Although the numbers didn't reflect a fair number of open seats that remained vacant on the south side of Mizzou Arena, the noise level inside the arena far surpassed that of any of Missouri's previous games.
"That atmosphere was unbelievable," Anderson said. "It was what I envisioned when I first came here."
After the game, several Missouri players went into the stands to celebrate with the students. During postgame interviews, freshman guard Kim English even sneaked into the interview room to playfully pose a question to three of his fellow teammates.
Although Anderson has a policy for players to forget about the previous game by midnight, it was clear the players were going to enjoy it while it lasted.
With the win against Baylor, Missouri improved to 18-4 and 5-2 in Big 12 play.