Marcus Denmon has stepped up to lead the Missouri Tigers all season. On Thursday against Vanderbilt, Denmon proved himself once again.
With the game tied at 82 in overtime the junior guard jumped the passing lane for a steal and drove down court for the basket and the foul, giving the Tigers the 85-82 victory.
The performance came only days after the death of his cousin, who was shot in Kansas City last week. Marion Denmon and another man were caught in crossfire between two cars Dec. 3. He died Tuesday. Sophomore guard Michael Dixon said Denmon provided a tribute to his cousin with the victory.
“He was like a brother to Marcus,” Dixon said. “It’s been a long couple of days. That’s just a tribute to where he’s from and what he’s been through his whole life. He attributed it to the person who passed and he came out and played his heart out.”
The Tigers leading scorer poured in a team-high 21 points and six rebounds to help Missouri improve to 7-1 on the season.
Junior forward Ricardo Ratliffe also contributed for the Tigers, adding 13 points and nine rebounds.
Ratliffe sent the game into overtime when he hit split a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining to tie the game at 72. The Tigers were plagued yet again by free throws, hitting only 15 of 22 in the game.
“I was really nervous on the first one,” Ratliffe said. “I never had an atmosphere like this playing against a good team like that. We went into the timeout and everybody talked me up. Kimmie (English) put a little bug in my ear and I just made sure I made the second one.”
Vanderbilt had equal hardships at the charity stripe, making only 11 of 22 on the night.
The Commodores came out firing from long distance in the first half, knocking down 6 of 12 three-point attempts. Vanderbilt capitalized on Missouri’s high-risk-high-reward defense, getting wide-open looks from long distance in transition. The Commodores the entire first half, and trailed by only three points at halftime.
Redshirt junior Festus Ezeli gave the Tigers trouble in the paint all night long on both sides of the ball. The 6-11, 255 pound center was 6 of 7 from the field for 16 points, while grabbing eight rebounds and blocking six shots. Sophomore guard John Jenkins led the Commodores with a game-high 23 points.
In overtime Denmon continued to lead the offense, including a go-ahead three pointer from way beyond the arc to put the Tigers up 80-79 with 1:16 left. After a basket and foul by Ezeli, a driving layup from Dixon and the steal and score by Denmon put the Tigers ahead for good.
“What a finish,” coach Mike Anderson said of Denmon’s play late in the game. “In the first half he played with a heavy heart, he lost a family member. I thought the second half, he looked more like the Marcus Denmon that has been playing.”
Missouri continues the season at home Saturday against Presbyterian. Tip off is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.