Missouri uses second half surge to overcome La Salle

Junior Marcus Denmon, who was named tournament MVP, led The Tigers with 21 points.

Despite being in Cancun, Mexico for the half of Thanksgiving Break, the Tigers have had little time to relax. But after going 2-0 and wining the 2010 Cancun Challenge title, Missouri basketball has a lot to be thankful for.

The Tigers overcame the La Salle Explorers Wednesday night despite entering halftime tied at 41 apiece. Missouri used a second half surge to earn its third tournament title under coach Mike Anderson, beating La Salle 83-71.

Junior guard Marcus Denmon came off the bench to lead all scorers with 21 points while hitting 5 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc. Anderson decided to shake up the starting lineup, resulting in Denmon’s move to a reserve role. The junior was named tournament MVP and also made the All-Tournament squad.

“That gave us more balance,” Anderson said of Denmon’s move to the bench. “I thought he really came out and just kind of zeroed and focused in on playing well.”

Although Denmon had success as the sixth man both in the game as well as his first two seasons, the junior said it is not something he wants to re-embrace.

“I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Denmon said. “But it’s not something I want to get back accustomed to.”

Also representing Missouri on the All-Tournament squad was junior transfer Ricardo Ratliffe, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds against La Salle. The rebound total was the highest for a Tiger since 2008.

Missouri made its move trailing by one midway through the second half. The Tigers went on a 13-2 run and never looked back, leading by at least eight the rest of the way. Ratliffe contributed six of his 14 points during the run.

The Tigers got great play off the bench, and used their depth to wear down the Explorers. Missouri blew past its season average of 27 bench points, getting 49 from its reserves in the game. The Tigers also took care of the ball with a season low six turnovers against the Explorers, a change of pace from the 20 turnovers against Wyoming in the previous game. Missouri’s defensive pressure forced 19 La Salle turnovers, largely due to the fast pace that the Tigers force in the game.

Explorer coach John Gianni said the tempo Missouri forces makes things difficult for opposing teams.

“When you get a few baskets against their press and your running and the game is fast, it’s like eating ice cream,” Gianni said. “Players love to play fast, but try and eat ice cream for 40 minutes straight, you’re going to get sick.”

Missouri continues its season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Sunday before a marquee matchup against Georgetown Tuesday.

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