Tigers learn to bury opposition

Monday, January 26, 2009
L.G. PATTERSON ~ Associated Press
Missouri's Zaire Taylor, left, battles Texas Tech's John Roberson for a loose ball Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Four days after hanging on to win at Oklahoma State, Missouri had the finishing touch.

The Tigers (17-3, 4-1 Big 12) have a 14-game winning streak at home after beating Texas Tech 97-86 on Saturday, fighting off a handful of challenges at the end. That was unlike the Oklahoma State game when they nearly squandered a 15-point cushion with 4:10 to play and mustered only six free throws the rest of the way.

Missouri coach Mike Anderson said his players did a good job of maintaining a balancing act, remaining aggressive while recognizing that time was on their side.

"I think you've got to stay in attack mode, but I think you've got to use some clock as well," Anderson said. "We have a bunch of guys that really can handle the basketball, so it creates the advantage.

"But we want them to take good shots and there are times when you want to run it down, and that's the lesson we learned from Oklahoma State."

L.G. PATTERSON ~ Associated Press
Missouri's Kim English throws a pass around Texas Tech's Rogdrick Craig during the first half Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

Missouri is off to its best start in the Big 12 since 2001-02 heading into Wednesday's game at Kansas State. Eight wins in the last nine games have helped the Tigers recapture part of the luster lost in a dispiriting holiday season loss to Illinois that ended a one-week appearance in the top 25.

Anderson's not interested in campaigning for another chance in the poll. He's looking at the big picture -- the NCAA tournament that Missouri has missed since 2003.

"I just want our guys to stay focused on getting better," Anderson said. "You want to be there at the end, that's always been my answer.

"I think we're playing some good basketball. Hopefully when it's all said and done, we're there."

Missouri had an 18-point lead in both halves against Texas Tech, and leaned on its best player down the stretch. DeMarre Carroll had 27 points, only two off his career best, including seven points in the final 6 minutes.

Carroll recalled Anderson badgering players in practice, saying they played not to lose at Oklahoma State.

"The style of basketball we play, you've just got to keep attacking," Carroll said. "Once we got into the half court, we weren't trying to just hold the ball.

"When we play not to lose, that's when panic comes in."

As he does every game, Anderson said defense was the key to a high-scoring attack that produced season bests of 29 turnovers and 20 steals, the latter tied for the second-most in school history. J.T. Tiller led the full-court effort with seven steals, one off the school record.

The relentless style led to season highs in free throws made and attempted, with the Tigers going 32 of 41 and four players having perfect days at the line.

"If people are going to beat us, make them beat us at our own game," Tiller said. "We can't play their game. We've got to keep running because that's how we practice and that's how we're going to get our wins."

Missouri had more than just Carroll when it needed to score. Freshman Marcus Denmon scored the last seven points of an 8-0 run after Texas Tech had cut the deficit to seven, and finished with 14 points. Kim English had 13 points and Leo Lyons had 12 off the bench, with three other players scoring seven or more points.

The Tigers are deep enough that they had plenty left at the end.

"I just saw our guys kind of take it up another gear," Anderson said. "We had some different guys step up and play well."

Players were energized by a crowd of 13,357.

"When you've got fans coming out and supporting you and keeping you in the game," Carroll said, "when you come home and it feels like home, that's real big."

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