Missouri moves to 2-0 defeating Maryland-Eastern Shore

Kim Anderson: “We really didn’t do a great job defensively for a while. But then, in the second half, Cullen makes a big shot, everybody contributes, and that's what's important for this team.”
Terrence Philips, Missouri guard, goes up for a layup during the basketball game against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore on Nov. 15 in the Mizzou Arena.

Cullen VanLeer felt comfortable behind the arc when he caught the ball with a chance to break open the game against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Sunday night.

Leading 46-41 with 10:42 remaining in the basketball game, the Mizzou Arena crowd, 5,082 strong, sensed separation. Spotting up on the left side, VanLeer caught the ball and drilled a three-pointer prompting a warranted eruption.

That three from the Pacific, Missouri, native ignited an 11-0 run for the Tigers leading to the 73-55 victory.

“I thought, in the last 10 or 11 minutes tonight, we really started playing,” coach Kim Anderson said. “We really didn’t do a great job defensively for a while, but then, in the second half, Cullen makes a big shot, everybody contributes, and that's what's important for this team.”

Playing their second game in two days and the second installment of the College Basketball Experience Classic, the Tigers stalled a bit early. Freshman forward Kevin Puryear was the first Tiger to get on the board and began the game 4-4 from the field for 10 points, but UMES stuck around. Struggling to convert from downtown — Missouri shot 4-13 in from three-point range in the first half — the home team led the Hawks at halftime, 34-32.

Puryear scored to begin the second half, but freshman guard KJ Walton was the spark. Possession after possession, Walton’s slashing ability was on display as he reached the free-throw line 10 times in the second half. Ultimately, that was the difference that pushed the Tigers to the win.

“(Assistant coach Brad) Loos is constantly telling people that we need to get to the basket and provide points,” Walton said after the game. “We came out a little stagnant, and we weren’t very aggressive, and we didn’t really play to our abilities in the first half, so that’s kind of why the game was the way it was.

“But in the second half, we came out very aggressive and listened to the coaches and played it from there.”

Walton’s ability to attack confidently and get to the rim alone defines the transition from last year’s team to this year’s, but freshman point guard Terrence Phillips’ play also contributed to the effort.

For the second straight game, his play evoked comment from the opposing coach. This time, on Phillips’ ability to shoot the three in the second half, UMES coach Bobby Collins said, "He hit some big shots for (Mizzou), and he was on the end of every big run they had.”

Missouri and Phillips will put their 2-0 start will to the test Tuesday when the Tigers travel to Cincinnati to face off against college basketball power Xavier for the season’s first road game.

On the game, Phillips said: "I'm very excited. I think we can kind of go in there and steal one."

Anderson was quick to respond when Phillips left the media room saying: "Terrence wasn't here last year. I was here last year."

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