With a little more than seven minutes remaining and the Tigers holding a 16-point lead over North Florida on Saturday, coach Mike Anderson and junior guard Kim English challenged the team to tighten up the defense. The result: a 27-0 run to end the game and a 96-58 Missouri victory.
“That was a challenge,” junior forward Laurence Bowers said. “They had 56 and we said we weren’t going to let them score anymore. After that we locked down and just started to play basketball. We were so focused in the zone after Coach A and Kimmie (English) challenged us. We got fired up and held them to two points for the last seven minutes.”
Missouri improved to 2-0 on the young season with a blowout victory over North Florida, led by double-doubles from Bowers and fellow junior forward Ricardo Ratliffe. Junior guard Marcus Denmon led all scorers with 18 points.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 16-2 lead but let the Ospreys fight back, entering halftime leading by only eight points. North Florida cut the Missouri lead to two points early in the second half, but the Tigers constant defensive pressure would unravel the Ospreys North Florida turned the ball over 34 times, the most in the history of Mizzou Arena.
Anderson said he felt his squad played much better than in Wednesday’s narrow victory over Western Illinois.
“It was refreshing to see our team come out with great energy and great focus,” Anderson said. “I asked our guys to get better from the game a few days ago. I thought in the last game we didn’t play with a sense of urgency, and this game I thought we really came out with that.”
Nearly all players got on the board against North Florida, with all but junior center Steve Moore tallying points in the victory. Ratliffe, who transferred to Missouri this season, lived up to expectations after struggling in the season opener. The 6-8 forward scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds for the Tigers.
“It was definitely a good coming out game for Ricardo,” Bowers said. “I actually felt sorry for the other team. If we can get that consistently and he is a consistent player, I think that can help out our basketball team.”
Missouri now travels to Cancun, Mexico to square off against Wyoming in the 2010 Cancun Challenge. Although the Tigers will be heading from the cold Midwest into the sun, Ratliffe said the trip would be no vacation.
“We might do some workouts on the beach, but we are not going out there to vacation,” the junior transfer said. “We are going out there to get a job done. We just want to bring some wins back to Missouri.”
Denmon said the Cancun Challenge would be a learning experience for the younger players.
“We want to show the young guys how to take games on the road,” Denmon said. “It will be their first time going away, so we want to show them the way and how to get comfortable playing outside of Mizzou Arena.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Tuesday.