Coming into Saturday’s matinee with Navy at Mizzou Arena, the No. 10 Missouri Tigers anticipated playing a physical team that would try to slow the tempo and grind its way up and down the court.
What the Tigers expected is what the Tigers encountered with Navy. After falling behind in the game’s preliminary moments, Missouri took care of business en route to an 84-59 victory.
With the victory, Missouri improved to 9-0 on the season, the program’s best start since the 2006-07 campaign.
“Navy played extremely hard,” coach Frank Haith said. “Their post guys did a great job of covering us up in the post. They’re the first team we played all year that jammed us on ball screens, and I thought out guys reacted nicely to that.”
After the game, senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe said the team watched videos of Naval workouts and other activities the Navy basketball team does to get in shape. Ratliffe was not caught off guard by Navy’s play.
“They’re a real tough team, really physical,” Ratliffe said of the Midshipmen. “We tried to match their physicality. They started out more physical than us and coach (Haith) challenged us to go match theirs.”
A balanced attack helped the Tigers overcome the Midshipmen’s physicality, as all five starters were in double figures in the point column.
In addition, all eight regulars recorded at least one point and one rebound, and five of the eight Tigers in the rotation tallied an assist.
“There’s no question it is really neat that we have guys that can score and it’s great to see us share the ball and have different guys put up numbers,” Haith said.
Behind the team effort, the Tigers led the Midshipmen 45-26 at the half. The 19-point halftime lead marked MU’s eighth consecutive double-digit lead at the break.
An 11-0 run snapped the Tigers out of an early second-half trance. A Steve Moore dunk followed by a three-pointer from senior guard Marcus Denmon crushed any remaining doubt about who would come away victorious.
Denmon led all Tigers with 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
Haith, pleased with the win, said the coaching staff has preached to the team not to take games against lesser teams lightly.
“We challenge our guys everyday to get themselves ready, because anybody can beat you,” Haith said.
Haith referenced Austin Peay’s stunning victory over Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday as an example. While MU's postgame press conference was taking place, Indiana defeated No. 1 Kentucky.
“You have to be on your game," Haith said. "All the time.”
The Tigers were on Saturday, and have been all season. All nine of the victories have come by double-digits, with eight of the nine coming by 15 points or more.
Navy (3-8) entered Saturday’s game losers of seven of its last eight. Saturday’s game could have been a trap for MU, but the Tigers came out and did what they needed to record the win.
“(The Midshipmen) did a good job of playing the game they wanted, but we adjusted and got out of here with a win,” senior forward Kim English said.