Both teams stepped up in terms of competition compared to previous foes; the victors were clearly another level above the defeated.
Missouri hit 12 of their first 16 shots and connected on a decisive 63 percent in the first half en route to a 15-point edge at intermission. The Tigers harassed Notre Dame – with one point guard on its roster – into costly turnovers that resulted in repeated transition opportunities in the crippling first half.
Notre Dame rode the return of senior co-captain Tim Abromaitis to remain within striking distance for most of the first half as the polished forward scored 18 of his team-high 22 points in the opening stanza. But Missouri's unselfish ball movement and aggressive approach overwhelmed Mike Brey's group that had fed off lesser foes in the season's opening week of basketball.
Missouri guard Marcus Denmon led all scorers with 26 points, connecting on 9 of his 11 field goal attempts. Phil Pressey added 17 while Ricardo Ratliffe scored 12 points with a team-high eight rebounds. Kim English added 10 with five boards, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
The Tigers shot 58.2 percent for the game but were in the mid-60 percent range with the game in doubt. Missouri dished out 10 first-half assists and forced 12 Irish miscues.
Co-captain Scott Martin supported Abromaitis' effort with 14 points and six rebounds. Both Eric Atkins and freshman Pat Connaughton scored seven though Atkins, ill last week with tonsillitis, hit on just two of eight offerings.
The Irish scuffled to 36 percent from the field including 4 of 16 from long range and were out-rebounded 35-23 despite a decided height advantage across the bulk of their matchups. Abromaitis grabbed seven boards in defeat.
Notre Dame will face the loser of the Georgia/California contest at 7:45 (ET) tomorrow. The game will be televised on ESPNU. The Tigers will take on the winner for the championship on ESPN at 10 PM.
Brey noted the team's goal was to get better with every game en route to fighting for one of the many NCAA bids from the Big East.
They'll have to, starting with the consolation game and a chance for a win vs. an SEC or Pac-12 foe Tuesday night.