Mizzou mauls Iowa State by 20

It was a tantalizing taste of what Missouri fans were expecting from this Tiger basketball team. Gilbert and Rush were playing smart, aggressive, confident games. The two sophomores were active and agile under the basket, and the Tigers bench came to play. Are the Tigers peaking at the right moment?

It was the best overall team effort of the 2002 season, bar none. Missouri just toyed with an Iowa State team that had beaten them once before this season.

As we indicated at the time, there is no earthly reason why that should happen if the Tigers come to play.

And play they did on Thursday night. Senior guard Clarence Gilbert lead all scorers with 26 point, while Kareem Rush and Arthur Johnson each added 17 points of their own.

The Tigers were efficient on the offensive end and move the ball extremely well for most of the game.

Perhaps the offense was so good because the defense was tenacious and relentless, lead by junior "enforcer" Justin Gage.

Gage had nine rebounds, and did the majority of his damage on the boards in the first half.

Gage was also a fearless defender, pushing much larger players off the blocks for much of the first half.

The Tigers clearly fed of Gilbert's cool efficiency on offense and Gage's toughness on defense.

The end result was a twenty-point laugher where the starters got to sit down for the final quarter.

Along with Gage, the Tigers also received notable positive contributions off the bench from Najeeb Echols and Josh Kroenke. Clearly, when both of these guys are healthy, they deserve to get significantly more playing time.

Echols moved more fluidly than he has since becoming a Tiger and Kroenke provided stiffling defense as the Tigers switched in and out of a zone defense.

The Tigers move on to the second round to face third-seed Texas on Friday night. In that game, it is still uncertain whether Texas' star freshman point guard, T.J. Ford will be able to play.

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