Missouri men’s basketball coach Frank Haith told senior guard Marcus Denmon that he could expect 20 minutes on the floor before the team’s exhibition game against Truman State on Wednesday.
Denmon received 21 minutes. And he took advantage of each and every one of them.
En route to his team’s 87-48 home-opening victory at Mizzou Arena, Denmon led all scorers with 23 points. Twenty-one of those points came behind the arc where he fired 7-of-10 shooting.
For nearly 25 minutes, Denmon single-handedly outscored the Bulldogs.
“I think he probably figured he’d better get his clips up early (before leaving the game),” Haith said with a smile. “If he’s open, I want him to shoot it. I think Marcus is a terrific player. I’ve been around some really good guards and Marcus is right there with them. He’s very efficient, he doesn’t take bad shots.”
Efficiency was just what the Tigers needed after starting the game sluggishly, going scoreless for six straight possessions over four minutes. It was a Denmon three-pointer that gave MU a lead and from there, the team took off.
The first half showcased a fast-paced style that could be expected from a team starting four guards. At the end of the half, the Tigers held a commanding 45-16 lead. Before coming back for the second half of the game, Haith told his players he wanted to see them set up on offense.
“We’re comfortable playing in (transition),” he said. “But as we get into our schedule, we’ve got to be able to run offense. And that’s what I was stressing to these guys for the second half; to play a half court offense.”
It was Denmon once again jumpstarting the team. He opened the half by snatching a loose ball and dunking on the other end before launching two more from three-point territory.
“To be honest, (it’s) something my teammates expect from me just because they see the amount of work in I put into my game every day,” Denmon said.
Denmon was sure to spread the credit.
“But we’ve got a lot of guys that can score," he said. "The things that we’ve worked on every day are the things we can be consistent in, because no matter how hard you work, there’s gonna be some nights that you don’t shoot the ball great. So the things you can be consistent in are on the defensive end.”
The Tigers inserted two big men in the second half lineup: Senior Steve Moore and redshirt freshman Kadeem Green. Green’s first four points earlier in the game were dunks. He led the game with 11 rebounds. Moore had nine points, all in the second half.
“They were very instrumental in terms that they brought the energy necessary for us to have the kind of success that we wanted to have on both ends of the court,” Haith said.
Senior Michael Dixon, who finished the game with 15 points and eight rebounds, took command of the Tigers’ offense as Denmon rested for the majority of the second half.
“Obviously, Marcus is a big part of what we do,” Dixon said. “I think we contribute off him as well as he contribute off us and we’re gonna need him to be pretty good every night, and that’s a lot to (put) on someone but I feel like he has the mental toughness to be able to do that.”