Slimmer Moore plays bigger role for Missouri men's basketball team

Friday, December 2, 2011
Missouri's Steve Moore, center, is averaging 4.7 points per game this season. (L.G. PATTERSON ~ Associated Press)

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A four-guard attack largely is responsible for No. 13 Missouri's best start since 2006 under new coach Frank Haith. A not-so-big man off the bench has done his part, too.

Senior Steve Moore had trouble keeping up with the running game and avoiding foul trouble last season. He lost weight during the offseason, and the 6-foot-9, 267-pounder has become more of a contributor.

"I'm in better shape," Moore said. "I know what my strengths are. I can play to those. I'm just constantly being coached and told what to do. Everything just falls into place."

Moore averaged 11 minutes and 2 points per game last season. He's playing 15 minutes this year with a 4.7-point average and was a big factor in a victory over California with a career-best 10 points, three blocked shots and three assists.

"Steve plays with a lot of emotion," Haith said. "You like that spark he brings to the game. It's very noticeable and it's contagious. ... Whether he's taking a charge or diving on the floor for a loose ball, those are momentum plays. And when he makes those plays, that gives your team an extra boost."

Moore is averaging 1.5 blocks per game. He has become a better player overall as a complement to 6-9 Ricardo Ratliffe, who leads the Tigers with 6.5 rebounds per game and is averaging 12.5 points. Moore's skills could come in handy tonight against Northwestern State (La.), who is led by 6-7 William Mosley. Mosley led the nation with 154 blocks last season and ranks third in the nation with 26 blocks this season.

Mosley also averages 10 rebounds.

"The best way to go after a shot-blocker is to go right at him," Haith said. "You cannot avoid him. Our game plan is to attack him."

Moore is 10th on the school's career blocked shot list with 73, four behind Leo Lyons.

The Tigers (6-0) have outscored their opponents by an average of 27 points, and seniors Marcus Denmon and Kim English are off to nice starts. Denmon is averaging 18.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. English is averaging 18.2 points and five rebounds and is leading the Big 12 with 25 3-pointers while shooting 62.5 percent from long distance.

Missouri already has reached double digits in 3-pointers four times. The Tigers are shooting 52 percent, 43.3 percent from 3-point range and 76.9 on free throws, all best in the conference. They're deep, too, with the bench scoring 54 points the last two games.

The Tigers have a 62-game nonconference home winning streak dating to the 2005-06 opener.

Northwestern State (4-3) was picked to win the East Division of the Southland Conference and has had balanced scoring led by Shamir Davis with a 12.3-point average.

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