In his postgame press conference, Baylor coach Scott Drew revealed that his team’s plan of attack was to force Missouri to take threes.
As the old adage goes, hindsight is 20-20.
The No. 4 Tigers (23-2, 10-2 Big 12 Conference) took advantage of what Drew’s Bears (21-4, 8-4 Big 12) were giving them along the perimeter, sinking 14 threes en route to a 72-57 victory Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.
“They were hitting threes, and we couldn’t stop them,” said Baylor freshman Quincy Miller, who led the Bears with 20 points.
That effectively tells the tale of the second half, in which Missouri outscored Baylor 39-28, cementing a regular season sweep of the Bears. Missouri downed Baylor 89-88 on Jan. 21 in Waco, Texas.
It was a Steve Moore dunk with 12:39 remaining that commenced Baylor’s undoing.
With Missouri clinging to a 41-37 point lead, senior guard Marcus Denmon drove the baseline and spotted Moore cutting to the hoop. Denmon dished the ball to the open Moore, who emphatically slammed it home to put the Tigers up six.
“I drove and when (Baylor) helped, I saw Steve diving down to the rim so I tossed it to him and he made a really good play,” Denmon said.
Baylor was unable to recover, as the Tigers proceeded to go on a 17-6 run, highlighted by a barrage of three-point shots.
Denmon, junior guard Mike Dixon and sophomore point guard Phil Pressey all contributed to the onslaught of perimeter shots, feeding off each others successful shots.
“When Phil passes to another guard and he makes his shot, it’s going to open up Phil, because the defense is going to react to what happened last time,” Denmon said.
The Tigers finished the game shooting 24-of-50 from the field and 14-of-28 from deep. Eight of the threes came in the second half.
Drew came away from Saturday extremely impressed with the Tigers’ offensive prowess.
“When Missouri is on, nobody in the country is as good as them offensively, nobody,” Drew said.
The sharp outside shooting allowed the Tigers to overcome their rebounding deficiencies. Missouri was outrebounded 23-8 in the first half. The Tigers struggled to box out the much lengthier Bears, as 12 of the Baylor’s 23 first-half boards were offensive.
“We were telling our guys what the numbers were,” coach Frank Haith said. “They knew. We were blocking out. We need to have physical blockouts.”
The rebounding effort was much more effective in the second half, with the Tigers grabbing a 19-17 advantage.
“Rebounding is all about passion, it’s all about desire,” Haith said. “So much is made about it is length. They had length. They were playing the ball above us. But if we do a good job of keeping those balls alive, our little guys can come and scoop the ball up.”
One of those “little guys” Haith was referring to was the 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound Pressey. Pressey was the smallest player on the court, but had an enormous impact on Saturday’s result.
The sophomore turned in one of his best performances of the season, scoring 19 points and committing just one turnover.
Pressey’s success started when he banked in three shots off the glass in the game’s opening moments.
“It just happens like that sometimes,” a smiling Pressey said jokingly in reference to his glass-kissing shot. “I mean, I made it so that’s all that counts.”
Denmon and Dixon each finished with 16 points, while senior guard Kim English chipped in 12 of his own. Miller led all scorers with 20 for Baylor.
With his 16-point performance, Denmon surpassed Jon Sundvold for 10th place on the all-time MU scoring list.
Saturday’s performance had further historical meaning, as it was the 100th victory for the senior class, which tied the group with the 1983 class as winningest in program history.
“I do think there’s still another level this team can get to — I do,” Haith said. “I’m excited about where they’re at, but I do think there’s some areas we can get better at, and we can be a special team.”