The No. 9 Missouri men’s basketball team took to the road Wednesday for another Big 12 Conference contest, prevailing in a 76-69 bout with Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. But after the game, the talk was about what happened in Manhattan, Kan., just a few nights before when the team was dealt a 75-59 drubbing against Kansas State.
At first, coach Frank Haith sounded irritated when “criticism” was mentioned.
“We didn’t listen to that criticism,” he said flatly.
“We talked a lot that Sunday about K-State,” he said. “Then it was no more. Once we were done with it, we talked about the toughness thing. We physically got whipped in Manhattan. We did. But our guys are an older team who’s experienced with good leadership. They understood that we couldn’t let that happen again. We were able to get ourselves ready mentally to play today.”
In a game in which senior guard Marcus Denmon, the Big 12's leading scorer, was held to a sole field goal, the Tigers (15-1, 2-1 Big 12) survived thanks to six of Haith’s seven-member rotation finishing in double-digit scoring. It was senior guard Matt Pressey, an atypical scoring threat averaging eight points per game, who led the bunch with 14.
“There’s always gonna be guys they’ll throw at Marcus,” Pressey said. “But I think if we do our job and be aggressive, they’re gonna have to pick their poison. They’re gonna either have to guard him and leave guys open, or if not, he’ll step in and make those shots.”
Chris Babb removed any three-point threat by Denmon, who was plastered the whole night by the Cyclones’ junior guard. Iowa State, on the other hand, carried itself with production behind the perimeter.
In the first half, the Cyclones connected on 8 of 12 tries from the arc while the Tigers struggled, going 3-of-13. The first shot of the game came on a three-pointer by ISU senior guard Scott Christopherson, who had a game-high 19 points. Christopherson hit the half’s last shot, a prayer from just beyond the mid-court stripe at the buzzer to bring his team ahead 38-36.
“That was a great shot,” senior center Steve Moore said. “They made plays the whole night, but we were able to grind it out and stay together.”
Moore came in off the bench and nearly notched a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes of play. He accounted for the Tigers’ success in the paint, where they outscored the Cyclones by 20 and outrebounded them by 11.
Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe, playing amid foul trouble for much of the game, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Ratliffe’s main task of the night was defending ISU’s 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound sophomore forward Royce White. White scored 16 and added six assists and six rebounds.
“He’s a good player, I’m not gonna lie,” Pressey said. “But he puts his shorts on and puts his shoes on just like we all do.”
Pressey said that mental toughness anchored his team to execute and close the game out. The ball was put into Denmon’s hands to sink the game’s icing free throws. He made all four, the only shots he took in the second half.
Haith noted one particular assist from Denmon, who had seven in the game. Denmon came off a screen, the lane prime for a potential lay-up. He dished to Phil Pressey, who made one of his two three-pointers in the corner to give the team its biggest lead with five minutes left in the game.
“Phil was having a tough night shooting,” Haith said. “But he trusted Phil. There’s something about trusting your teammates.”