The Missouri Tigers built an early lead on the Texas Tech Red Raiders Saturday, allowing them to coast for most of the way en route to a 97-86 victory. Freshman guard Kim English sparked the hot start with eight points, including two three-pointers, in the early going.
The Tigers built their lead to 18 in the first half, and the Red Raiders weren't able to come any closer than seven points the rest of the way. Along with excellent shooting from English, the Tigers relied on relentless defense, allowing Tech only two shot attempts in the first two minutes.
Saturday marked the third consecutive conference game where Missouri got off to a hot start, so just how important are those first couple minutes of a game for the Tigers?
"It's very important." said J.T. Tiller "Our whole mentality coming into the game was our defensive approach. That's how I get my butterflies out, trying to play defense. Try to just get the team cranking and bring the energy."
Well, Tiller's butterflies must have flown out of him and around Mizzou Arena early, because his seven steals against Tech were just one shy of a single-game school record.
"J.T. Tiller, he's Mr. Blue Collar. The guy's everywhere." Said head coach mike Anderson. "His anticipation skills and just his toughness he gets knocked down and still comes up with the basketball. Just has a nose and a great feel for the game, and that's why he's starting,"
Senior forward Demarre Carroll led all scorers with 27 points, and has been impressive since the conference-opening loss at Nebraska.
"He's got some heart. You can't teach heart, you can't teach heart." Said Anderson in reference to Carroll. "That's what he has. He has a big heart and he wants to win, and he's a fifth-year guy. He knows his time is dwindling down. He has 11 conference games left."
Like Wednesday's game against Oklahoma State, the Tigers big lead didn't go unchallenged in the second half. The Red Raiders were able to cut Mizzou's lead to seven with just over six minutes to play, but they responded differently this time.
"They started playing defense." Said Anderson. "I thought we got a couple good stops and I think we even had a steal going. I thought our guys showed some good poise."
Saturday's win pushed the Tiers to 17-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play, giving Anderson his best start by far as the head man in Columbia. With just one more win, Anderson will match the highest win total of any season he's had at Mizzou. That win may come Wednesday in Manhattan, Ks., when the Tigers try to tackle the Wildcats.