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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pick-me-ups are plentiful for Tigers star

Senior forward Marcus Denmon's teammates have prevented his struggles from hindering the Tigers' scoring.

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Senior forward Marcus Denmon takes a shot against Texas Tech on Saturday at Mizzou Arena. The leading returning scorer in the Big 12 Conference has struggled in recent games, but not to the detriment of the team's offensive output.

Clayton Hotze/Senior Staff Photographer

Jan. 31, 2012

After Missouri’s 63-50 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, senior Marcus Denmon was asked if he was feeling under the weather.

“Yeah I’m not feeling well,” a visibly exhausted and lethargic-sounding Denmon said.

Denmon labeled his illness as nothing more than a cold, and that he’d be "all right." However, his cold might help explain his recent cold shooting streak.

Despite averaging 14.3 points per game over the team’s last eight contests, the John R. Wooden Award finalist — given to the nation's top player — is a meager 29-of-93 from the field.

"Marcus is a seasonal guy,” coach Frank Haith said. “I mean, I'm not going to make a bigger deal of it than it is. He knows he isn't shooting the ball well, so what do I need to talk to him about? All I have to tell him is to continue taking good shots. He is our guy.”

Despite the struggles of the team’s main offensive weapon, the Tigers’ average of 81.2 points per game is the highest in the Big 12 Conference and sixth best nationally. Having multiple scorers who can pick up each other's slack and take over a game has allowed the Tigers to have a potent offense.

“The offense is set up where it’s equal opportunity,” senior guard Kim English said. “It’s a luxury to have a team with really seven guys who can get it done any night.”

As Denmon has struggled, he's had ample pick-me-ups from his fellow Tiger teammates.

Five different Tigers have led Missouri in scoring through the team’s first nine conference games. Denmon, English, senior guard Matt Pressey and senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe have all carried the load one time or another during Big 12 play from the starting lineup, and junior guard Michael Dixon paced the Tigers in their win over Texas.

“Our team is a team where anyone can carry us for a night,” Denmon said.

The unselfish attitude the team has approached every game with this season has also made for such an efficient offense. That team-first mentality has also allowed the Tigers to adjust to the opposition’s game plan.

Texas Tech’s strategy was to eliminate Ratliffe in the post, which it did by double and occasionally triple-teaming the nation’s leader in field goal percentage. Ratliffe finished 4-of-6 from the field. His six shot attempts were his second-lowest shot total of the season.

With Ratliffe taken away, the team looked to the perimeter. English stepped up, scoring 19 of the team’s 31 first half points. English scored just three points in the second half, but Denmon posted 13, cementing the victory for Missouri.

“Different coaches have a different game plan,” English said. “(Illinois coach) Bruce Weber’s game plan was to take away me and Marcus, (Iowa State coach) Fred Hoiberg’s was to take away Marcus, (Texas A&M coach) Billy Gillispie’s was to take away Ricardo.”

English tabbed point guard Phil Pressey as being the man directing the offense.

“Phil is definitely a true point guard,” English said. “He has a good feel for the game and he could see where they were trying to take it away. That was obviously Ricardo. Phil did a nice job of finding guys for shots."

Having a point guard so shrewd with the ball has contributed to the shared offensive wealth. Four Tigers (Denmon, Dixon, English and Ratliffe) are averaging double figures on the season. Phil Pressey is just a tad below 10 at 9.9, and brother Matt Pressey is at a clip of 7.7 per game.

“We have an offense with weapons," English said. "We just have to find where to exploit teams.”

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