On Saturday afternoon in College Station, the #3 Missouri Tigers (25-2, 12-2) continue in their quest for a Big 12 title, as they dismantled the Texas A&M Aggies (13-13, 4-10) by a 71-62 final margin.
Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith talked about the win.
"I thought for the most part, we really ran good offense," explained Coach Haith. "We didn't get a lot of transition buckets……………………………….. Particularly in the second half, we really executed extremely well down the stretch."
The Aggies played Missouri tough, and were in the game until the end. Texas A&M Head Coach Billy Kennedy was once again without his starting point guard, in 6'1" senior Dash Harris, but his star player, 6'7" forward Khris Middleton, looked like himself against Missouri, as he finished with a team-high 15 points.
In an attempt to match up with Missouri, Coach Kennedy came out with a starting line-up that included four guards, including 6'4" freshman guard Jordan Green, who was impressive against Missouri, scoring 14 points for the Aggies, 6'5" junior guard Elston Turner, and 6'5" senior guard Zach Kinsley, in addition to Middleton, and 6'8" senior forward David Loubeau.
Missouri won the battle of the boards against the bigger Aggies, by a 26-16 margin. But, Texas A&M outscored Missouri 30-18 in the paint, and held a 5-2 advantage in second-chance points. Missouri committed 14 turnovers, to just 10 turnovers for Texas A&M, and the Aggies came away with a 10-0 edge in fast-break points, and a 16-14 advantage in points off of turnovers.
But, Missouri shot 56% from the field, including 40% from behind the 3-PT arc, and outscored Texas A&M 17-9 at the free-throw line.
Kim English scored 21 points and came up with 6 rebounds and 4 steals for Missouri. He was joined by Marcus Denmon, with 14 points, and 6 rebounds, Mike Dixon, with 15 points and 6 assists, and Phil Pressey, with 13 points and 7 assists, to give Missouri four double-digit scorers on the game.
Matt Pressey sat out most of the second half after turning an ankle, but afterwards he and Coach Haith both indicated that he would be okay.
After Elston Turner hit a 3-PT shot to cut Missouri's lead to 65-60 with 1:22 remaining in the game, and Phil Pressey turned it over on the ensuing possession, a pair of seniors stepped up big for the Tigers. Steve Moore drew a charging foul on David Loubeau, his fifth foul, and fellow Kansas City native Marcus Denmon stuck the dagger in the Aggies when he hit a 3-PT shot from the wing off of a Phil Pressey drive and dish.
From there, A&M had to start fouling the Tigers, and that didn't work out very well for them, either.
Denmon didn't play his greatest game; he seemed to be just a little bit sluggish for much of the game. But, the Tigers' big-shot maker did hit the two biggest shots of the game. Each time that A&M had threatened, first early in the second half when the Aggies pulled to within 2 points, Denmon stepped up to hit a 3-PT shot, and then when Denmon's 3-PT shot extended Missouri's lead to 68-60. Each time, Denmon took the life out of the Aggies, and in the end, nailed down the win for the Tigers.
Ricardo Ratliffe had kind of a rough game, as A&M made he and Denmon the focal points of their defense. But that opened it up for English, especially, and for Dixon and Phil Pressey.
Perhaps no Missouri player was as instrumental in this win as Steve Moore. His defense was a huge factor in limiting the Aggies on the inside, and it appeared to me in first hand observation that each time Moore sat down, that the Aggies made a run.
In fact, it was with Denmon and Moore on the bench early in the second half, that Texas A&M had cut it to 34-32. Coach Haith called a timeout, and inserted both guys back into the game, setting up an in-bounds play that resulted in Denmon's 3-PT shot from the wing.