Zaire Taylor knew a game like this would come for Missouri.
Despite the Tigers sporting a shooting percentage at the bottom of the Big 12 in conference play, and coming off a rout at the hands of Kansas on Monday night, the senior guard kept the faith that Missouri’s offense could rebound.
Saturday against Oklahoma State, it did.
Missouri (16-5, 4-2 Big 12) shot 52.3 percent on its way to handling Oklahoma State 95-80 in front of an announced crowd of 15,061 at Mizzou Arena. That percentage was the highest Missouri has shot in conference play and is nearly 17 points greater than its average this conference season.
“I knew it was bound to happen,” Taylor said. “It was a matter of time. It was weird that everybody goes in a slump like that at the same time. Once you see one guy hit a shot, you see the ball go in the hole, it makes it feel that much easier.”
Taylor was one of five players to score in double-digits on a Missouri team that didn’t let a 19-point loss to the Jayhawks rattle its confidence.
“When it gets to conference time, you can’t dwell on losses and get too happy on wins because any team on any given night can beat you,” sophomore guard Kim English said.
Part of the reason why Kansas beat Missouri on Monday was junior center Cole Aldrich effectively closing the paint to any Tiger scorer. Against the Cowboys, Missouri responded with 30 points in the paint and made its way to the basket with relative ease.
“If there was something to this game, I thought it was the rhythm,” coach Mike Anderson said. “You talk about the tempo of the game in terms of we’ve been playing and how want to play. That in turn gave us the opportunity to knock down some shots.”
Missouri’s hot shooting came out early in the game. The first half featured the Tigers’ best shooting percentage of the conference season (48.4 percent) but also saw Missouri’s lead fluctuate. After jumping out to a 25-10 advantage, Missouri saw Oklahoma State drive back with 12 unanswered points to make it a three-point game.
The Tigers responded with a run of their own highlighted by an alley-oop by sophomore forward Laurence Bowers, one of his two dunks in the game.
Missouri had an eight-point lead by the end of the half but Oklahoma State’s James Anderson came out of the locker room and made things interesting right away in the second half.
The junior guard exploded for 15 points in the first five minutes of the half and scored 17 of the Cowboys’ first 19 points coming out of halftime. On the strength of that outburst, Oklahoma State made it a 52-51 game at the 14:56 mark.
“When you got a player like James Anderson, you’ve got to ride him,” Anderson said. “And they rode him, especially in the second half. In the second half he came out with a purpose in terms of what was going to take place.”
But starting with two 3-pointers from Taylor, the Tigers soon pulled away from Oklahoma State. Following the second hit from beyond the arc, senior forward Keith Ramsey stole the ball and laid it in for two more points. When freshman guard Mike Dixon hit a 3-pointer of his own, Missouri’s lead had gone from two points to 12 in a matter of a couple minutes.
Oklahoma State didn’t go on a serious run after that and Missouri coasted to its 32nd-straight win at Mizzou Arena.