Senior center Ricardo Ratliffe was the biggest athlete on the court Monday night. And he played like it.
Ratliffe was integral in helping Missouri dig itself out of an early hole to defeat Central Missouri 88-70 on Monday night at Mizzou Arena in MU’s final preseason game.
Ratliffe’s nine points and five rebounds in the first quarter helped get the team on its feet. After trailing the Mules 19-17, MU finished the half on a 29-9 run.
“When we play inside out, through Ricardo, we’re able to get really good shots,” coach Frank Haith said after the game.
Aiding Ratliffe in Missouri’s late first half surge were guards Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon. The two combined for 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Each went 2-of-2 from beyond the three-point arc.
Denmon attributed much of the success enjoyed by others to Ratliffe, who held down the paint as the four guards rotated around the perimeter.
“I feel (Ratliffe) is the key,” Denmon said. “Ricardo is a load in there, when we get him the ball inside there usually good things happen.”
Those good things Denmon was referring to would continue to materialize throughout the second half.
In 13 minutes of action, the Hampton, Va., native added 12 points and four rebounds to his total, for a final stat line of 21 points and nine rebounds on 10-16 shooting from the field.
For the team as a whole, the second half was an underwhelming one.
The Mules and Tigers played to a second half tie, as each team put up 42 points. Central Missouri shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, up from 38.5 percent in the first half.
As pleased as coach Haith was with his team’s first half performance, he was equally disappointed in their second half showing.
“For a 15-minute stretch in the first half we played real, real good defense,” Haith said. “I felt we lost some intensity on the defensive end in the second half and we were giving up a lot of dribble penetration and didn’t guard the ball as well.”
Central Missouri coach Kim Anderson said he was very pleased with his team’s strong second half performance, something he emphasized at the half.
“At the half I told them let’s see if we can win the second half, because it was pretty obvious it would be hard to win the game,” Anderson said.
Anderson, a Sedalia native, is a former MU basketball player and was named to Missouri’s All-Century team in 2005 after a brief stint in the NBA.
Anderson came away very impressed with the performance of his alma mater, especially their stingy defense.
“I was really impressed with their half-court defense,” Anderson said. “They did a great job of forcing us to be really uncomfortable, and we were really uncomfortable for a while.”
The victory concluded an undefeated preseason for the Tigers, something coach Haith stressed should not be taken for granted, citing West Virginia’s stunning defeat to Division II Northern Kentucky last Friday.
Missouri won its three pre-season games by an average of 34.3 points.
The Tigers open regular season play Friday night against Southeast Missouri State University at Mizzou Arena.