Analysis: Missouri offense a collaboration

Different players step up on offense each game.

Sophomore guard Kim English puts up a shot against Texas freshman guard Avery Bradley on Feb. 17 at Mizzou Arena. English is Missouri's leading scorer, but the Tigers have also gotten big offensive games from other players.

As postseason play draws nearer for the Missouri men's basketball team, it might be fair to say we know this team's identity fairly well.

Every game, Missouri will bring it on defense, forcing turnovers and creating havoc for whomever has the ball. The Tigers' nation-best mark in steals per game (11.0) can attest to their defensive dynamic.

But one thing we do know about Missouri's offense is that we don't know exactly who will step up in a given game. Rather than one go-to scorer, there's a rotating display of performers and the spotlight could shine on any one of them in a given game.

So far, the Tigers have had seven different players lead them in scoring this year. Missouri's overall leading scorer, sophomore guard Kim English, has taken 14 of those game's scoring titles in the 29 games Missouri has played.

English has been Missouri's closest thing to a go-to guy on the offensive end, leading the Tigers in total points (417), points per game (14.4), 20-point games (nine) and double-digit point games (19). But other Tigers have supplanted English's performance with game-changing runs of their own.

Sophomore guard Marcus Denmon has stepped up offensively more times than any other Tiger except for English, leading Missouri in points seven times.

Denmon's career-high 24 points Feb. 20 at Nebraska helped Missouri win in a venue it couldn't last year.

When the Tigers were being sucked into the Cornhuskers' slower pace Jan. 23 at Mizzou Arena, sophomore guard Miguel Paul shook Missouri out of its trance with a second half run and team-high 15 points to power the team to a 70-53 win.

Even freshman guard Michael Dixon proved he could get hot enough from the field to carry Missouri's offense. Although he finished second in scoring to English, Dixon's 16 points against Illinois on Dec. 23 were vital in Missouri toppling the Fighting Illini for the first time in a decade.

Sophomore forward Laurence Bowers has injected some adrenaline into the Missouri attack many times with highlight reel dunks, but he has also shown a well-rounded game and is the only Tiger with multiple double-doubles (three). With junior forward Justin Safford out with a tear in his left ACL, Bowers will be looked upon to deliver more momentum-swinging plays.

Senior guard J.T. Tiller is a case study in how points only tell some of the story. Despite averaging less than nine points a game, Tiller's team-leading 84 assists have facilitated the Tiger shooters all season long.

What can this mean as Missouri heads into the last two games of the regular season and then the Big 12 Tournament? Although it might not have the guaranteed offense from a single player, Missouri also avoids problems if a player doesn't have it going in a particular game. The Tigers have proven the baton can be passed if the original holder isn't on that game.

Missouri's offensive identity might be that it has no single identity. There is no single star in this play. Everyone is an understudy and ready to step up when the director calls him onto the stage.

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