Missouri kept the good times rolling in Mizzou Arena Saturday, pounding the Cornhuskers 70-47. The Tigers' 9-2 conference record marks their best start since the formation of the Big 12. The Tigers entered the game third in league standings, and with a little help from Kansas State, they could move to second by day's end.
The Tigers continued their first half struggles against Nebraska, scoring just 25 points. The good news was they held Nebraska to a lowly 19 first half points. When the Tigers met the Cornhuskers in Lincoln earlier this season, they were held to just 18 points before the break.
"I think a lot of our games we've been big in the second half," said senior center Leo Lyons. "Coach says the last 10 minutes are really important, so we try to come out for those. But we want to focus on the whole game. We want to play well in the first half too."
The Tigers were certainly big in the second half again Saturday, piecing together an early 17-6 run that would take the lead from six to 17.
"A lot of people think we're a second half team," said junior guard J.T. Tiller. "We went into the locker room at halftime and coach told us the game was getting boring. We didn't want it to be boring. That gave us energy. We came out ready in the second half."
Once the Tigers established their big lead, they never looked back, blowing it up to 28 at one point. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler knows that Missouri is a team you don't want to try to outpace in the second half.
"You have to stay close to Missouri," said Sadler. "They get out of sight and it's hard to play catch up to them. It's my responsibility and I didn't have my guys ready for today…I'm not disappointed in our effort at all, my guys wanted it. It just wasn't there. We just didn't take care of the ball and you have to give them credit."
The Tigers stifled Nebraska with hustle and defense. Maybe no one displayed more hustle than junior forward Keith Ramsey. "He came off the bench and really got us going. He kept us in the game," said Anderson. "He's so good on defense and around the rim. He plays all over the place."
Ramsey got the crowd going too when he threw a weak Cornhusker shot like a baseball for one of his three blocks on the afternoon. Sophomore guard Kim English got in on the block party too when he raced back on defense, contorted his body around Husker guard Steve Harley, and swatted his shot straight to the floor.
Senior center Leo Lyons is usually noted for his offensive escapades, but it was his point total that kept him from registering a double-double Saturday, scoring just nine points while ripping down 10 boards.
"I saw the double team coming," said Lyons. "My job wasn't to score points. I just had to get rebounds and play good defense."
The Tigers will have to wait a full week to feast on their next victim, as they head to Colorado to take on the Buffs next Saturday. For the first time in a long time, Missouri is in the thick of the Big 12 race, and they'll have to sit idly by for seven days while the rest of the conference dukes it out.