Impressive defensive effort key to men’s basketball’s opening night win

Missouri held an Iowa State team that averaged 80.8 points per game a season ago to just 59 points.

Kevin Puryear, 24 defends against South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell in 2017. Maneater File Photo

Many Missouri fans expected Friday’s game between the Missouri Tigers and the Iowa State Cyclones to be full of offensive fireworks.

Instead, the Tigers’ defensive effort stole the show.

Missouri held Iowa State to 59 points on Friday night in the team’s opening victory, an impressive feat considering the Cyclones were 28th in the country last season in points per game with 80.8.

Iowa State went 24-11 overall and 12-6 in a Big 12 Conference that featured four NCAA Tournament teams last season. The Cyclones were a team that consistently scored points in bunches, even when it didn’t shoot the ball well. This was especially true in the 2017 Big 12 Conference Tournament, when the Cyclones scored 92, 84 and 80 points en route to the program’s fourth conference tournament title.

The Cyclones graduated all four of their double-digit scorers from a season ago, and none of last year’s scoring prowess carried over to the team’s game against Missouri to start the 2017-18 campaign. The Tigers blocked or altered shots on back-to-back possessions to start the game, holding Iowa State to just 2 for 12 shooting through the first five minutes of the contest and setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said he felt good about his team’s performance on the defensive end.

“I thought we had great defensive balance for the game,” Martin said. “They shot 39 percent for the game, but I thought we were better than that. We let up some, so now it’s time to learn how to get a lead, hold a lead and continue to blow through by consistently playing defense and still playing hard.”

Junior forward Kevin Puryear said Martin’s expectation of excellence from his players on the defensive end challenged the team to play aggressive, fundamental defense against the Cyclones.

“He’s instilled in us toughness from day one and not giving us any breaks,” Puryear said. “Even if we played good defense and [the opponent] scores, it’s still not good defense because he scored. He’s extremely hard on us and expects a lot out of us.”

Missouri did allow some open shots, but often Iowa State’s shooters looked out of rhythm and rarely knocked them down.

Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm said his team was affected by Missouri’s defensive presence but should’ve done a better job of executing when they had open looks.

“[Missouri’s defense] was good, [but] I think we had some opportunities,” Prohm said. “I thought we probably did have some looks that you gotta make, but we gotta continue to get more looks and better looks.”

According to Martin, the Tigers had very little defensive schemes prepared going into the team’s Showdown For Relief exhibition game against Kansas on Oct. 22. The team played exclusively man-to-man defense and gave up 93 points. But just three weeks later, the Tigers showed significant defensive improvement.

Senior Jordan Barnett said the team’s growth was impressive.

“This was a really complete defensive effort that we put together today,” Barnett said. “We’ve come a long way in this short amount of time; that’s for sure.”

Edited by Eli Lederman |

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