Despite a shorthanded lineup, the Missouri Tigers exploded for 116 points Saturday night in a 53-point win over Central Arkansas. Junior guard Marcus Denmon led all scorers with 21 points and junior forward Laurence Bowers chimed in with 20 points and four blocks in the victory as the Tigers improved their record to 10-1, their best start so far under coach Mike Anderson.
The Tigers were without suspended sophomore guard Michael Dixon as well as junior guard Matt Pressey, who suited up but did not play due to injury. Missouri also lost sophomore forward John Underwood, who announced earlier in the day that he would be leaving the program.
Central Arkansas coach Corliss Williamson played under Anderson at Arkansas, where the two won a national championship together in 1994. Anderson was emotional to see his former player coaching against him on the Central Arkansas bench.
“It was kind of a strange game,” Anderson said. “To look down the bench and there’s Corliss (Williamson), the “Big Nasty”, down there on the other end. It brought back a lot of memories and was very emotional as well.”
Missouri jumped out to an early lead with a 12-0 run to start the game. The Tigers led Central Arkansas for the entire game, with the lead extending to as much as 54 points in the game. The Tigers employed a balanced attack in the victory, with seven players finishing in double figures.
The trademark “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” worked to perfection for Anderson and the Tigers. Missouri forced 24 turnovers, while limiting Central Arkansas to 32 percent shooting for the game. Anderson said he was pleased with the defensive intensity his team showed against the Bears.
“That’s what we’ve been working on, we’re a work in progress,” Anderson said. “Whether your up or down, you’ve got to continue to focus on the task at hand, which is making it tough defensively on your opponent and creating easy offense for us.”
Freshman guard Phil Pressey facilitated the offense in Dixon’s absence, scoring 15 points and dishing out 11 assists in the victory. His 11 assists are a career high and tie him with Shawn Teague for the most assists in a game for a Missouri freshman.
Pressey has filled in well for Dixon, who was suspended for undisclosed reasons earlier in the week. With the Braggin’ Rights game against a tough Illinois squad Wednesday, the freshman will be under the most pressure of his young career. But Pressey said the he and the team look at every game the same way.
I guess every game is a big game like we will say,” Pressey said. “I’m just looking to get better and if I bring my practice to the game, I’m sure I’ll be alright.”
With the victory, the Tigers will presumably move into the Top 10 heading into Wednesday’s matchup against the Fighting Illini. Despite the high ranking, junior guard Kim English said it will not provide a boost against Illinois.
“No, with these kinds of games it’s just like an elite game or a rivalry game,” English said. “You can throw all the records and white-collar stats out the window. This is hard-nosed basketball, and it’s going to be a grind. We beat them last year and especially with them coming off a loss, they’re going to be really hungry.”