Missouri whips Ark.-Pine Bluff 88-70

Sunday, December 20, 2009

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Zaire Taylor graduated with a degree in sociology Saturday afternoon, then helped Missouri manhandle another home opponent.

Kim English had 18 points while going 3 for 5 from 3-point range in an 88-70 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

After receiving his diploma, Taylor contributed nine points, two assists and a steal. The senior guard also had a crowd-pleasing dunk in the closing minutes after watching teammates showboating all night.

"It is a good feeling graduating, when a lot of us weren't sure that would ever happen," Taylor said. "The win felt even better. I don't show it every day, but I've got a little bounce."

Justin Safford added nine points and nine rebounds after taking a blow above his left eye in the first half that required seven stitches. Freshman Michael Dixon had a season-best 13 points for the Tigers (7-3), who won their 25th in a row at home without their senior captain.

Guard J.T. Tiller served a one-game suspension after an early-morning arrest over an unpaid speeding ticket earlier in the week but wasn't missed by the Tigers, who led by 26 points in the first half and 28 in the second half.

"J.T. is a key on our team; he brings more energy than anybody in the country," Taylor said. "We need everybody, but we don't need nobody."

Lebaron Weathers had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-9), which has played all of its games on the road. Terrance Calvin added 15 points and five assists for the Golden Lions, who'll play their first 14 on the road before finally getting a home game Jan. 16 against Southern.

"A lot of times, we play to help raise money for the athletic department," coach George Ivory said. "I think it helps our guys too, seeing different competition in different venues for our conference run.

"That was a very good game for us because we don't think we'll see that kind of pressure anymore."

Arkansas-Pine Bluff's leading scorer, Savalance Townsend, was held to four points in 21 minutes. Townsend, who averaged 12.5 points, played only four minutes in the second half due a foot injury.

Missouri is 6-0 at home against inferior competition, with an average victory margin of 40 points in the first five games. Three visiting teams -- Pine Bluff, Fairleigh Dickinson and Pan American -- were a combined 2-29 before Saturday.

The Tigers are 36-0 in non-conference home games in four seasons under coach Mike Anderson and had no problem despite going a week between games due to final exams.

"We played a lot of players, so you expect some rustiness to be there," Anderson said. "Hopefully, we got some of that out of our system."

In its final tuneup before the annual "Braggin' Rights" game against Illinois on Wednesday in St. Louis, Missouri had 13 steals and scored 30 points off 20 turnovers.

Pine Bluff had as many turnovers (10) as shots (3 for 10) after the first 91/2 minutes while falling behind 23-7. Missouri led by as many as 26 points at 33-7 with 5:20 to go in the first half before Pine Bluff finally got on track.

"When you get down by 26 to a school like Missouri when they play pressure, it's hard to get back into the game," Ivory said. "It takes so much out of you to try and get back in the game."

The Golden Lions were scoreless for almost eight minutes at one point and were 3 for 17 before hitting nine of their last 12 shots and ending the half on a 22-7 run that shaved the deficit to 40-29.

"Their kids were not afraid," Anderson said. "But it's good to see our guys step up."

Missouri was back up by 20 points with just under 12 minutes to go.

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