Top 10 smoked yet again
The Tigers are 3-0 against top 10 teams with Saturday's 72-57 victory over then No. 6 Baylor.
Feb. 14, 2012
It turns out there was much more than met the eye behind the play that triggered a game-high sound decibel during Missouri’s match against Baylor on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
All anyone needed to see was senior center Steve Moore barreling down mid-lane, blitzing past defenders, taking an entry pass from senior guard Marcus Denmon and rising for a two-handed dunk.
“Oh, man,” sophomore point guard Phil Pressey said after the game, smiling in remark to the speed shown by his teammate. “That was a great play. I mean … Steve Moore …”
Sure, Moore’s will had much to do with what was, as coach Frank Haith put it, “a huge play, the energy play” that helped carry the Tigers’ 17-4 run and propel them to a 72-57 victory. But perhaps spectators looked past what happened in the unraveling of the play, in the moments before Moore made the rim and bleachers rattle.
On the prior Baylor possession, Moore ripped away a rebound from the Bears, who were winning the battle of the boards 23-8 at halftime. Then there was the moment when Denmon saw senior guard Kim English look him off and his opponent close in a second too late, prompting his decision to drive the left side of the basket.
Baylor defenders trapped Denmon on the block.
“When they helped (on defense), I saw Steve,” he said.
And that’s when he found a space in-between the ribs of defenders on either side of him.
“Actually, Kimmie really made that play happen,” Denmon said.
As Denmon describes it, the play was the product of a collaborative effort between him, Moore and English, the tandem that earned its 100th win, the most by any four-year class in program history. It came after the team drilled a season-high 14 three-pointers. Eight of those came in the second frame between four different players, combining into a surge that overwhelmed the Bears.
“All their guards can shoot the ball,” Baylor’s Anthony Jones said after the game. “It seemed like once one of them gets hot, all of them get hot.”
Pressey put on his best shooting display of the season, leading the Tigers with 19 points on four three-pointers after not hitting any from that range in his past five outings.
Pressey said he abided by the advice of his teammate, who is more well-known for his shooting prowess.
“I always talk to Phil about being confident in his shots,” Denmon said. “I see the amount of work he puts in every day. When he passes to another guard and they make a shot, it’s going to open up for him.”
Junior guard Michael Dixon contributed four more from behind the arc. His first gave the Tigers a lead midway in the first half. His second was the energy primer, coming the possession before Moore’s dunk.
“Once somebody starts hitting some shots or Steve makes a play, or Kimmie boxes somebody out or anything, we feed off of that,” he said.
Dixon has dodged the label of “spark plug” all season, the name so often attached to the kind of player he’s been all season coming off the bench and lifting his team.
Maybe the role was never his to hold after all. Maybe no one player was ever responsible for the heat the No. 3 Tigers have caught.
“No one guy would be who they are without the other guy,” Haith said.