Over the past two weeks, Missouri has endured a pair of overtime games and nearly blown a 20-point lead on the road.
The 15th-ranked Tigers might not have as many anxious moments against visiting Presbyterian on Saturday, especially if Marcus Denmon continues to excel.
Missouri (7-1) began its stressful stretch Nov. 30 when its rally fell short in a 111-102 overtime loss to then-No. 16 Georgetown in Kansas City. The Tigers bounced back for an 83-80 victory at Oregon on Dec. 2 but only after watching a sizable halftime lead nearly melt away.
A day after his cousin died of a gunshot wound in his native Kansas City, Denmon helped his team prevail in another tense game at home against Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
The junior guard had a key steal then completed a three-point play with 5.8 seconds left in overtime to give the Tigers an 85-82 victory. Denmon scored 19 of his 21 points after halftime to help his team overcome a season-worst 38.3 percent shooting performance.
Denmon has averaged 22.3 points on 57 percent shooting over the past three games, and his 17 points per game leads one of the nation’s best offensive teams (84.8 ppg).
“(Denmon) realizes his position on this team. You can slowly see him emerging as a leader,” coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s talking a lot more and guys are listening. You have to earn leadership, and he’s earned it. He’s working harder and he’s a much better player than he was last year.”
Denmon’s heroics gives Missouri the chance to extend its non-conference home win streak to 52 in its first meeting with the Blue Hose (3-5) and improve to 5-0 at Mizzou Arena this season.
Presbyterian enters this initial matchup with the Tigers following its best scoring performance against a Division I opponent.
The Blue Hose also snapped a 17-game road losing streak in the Big South Conference with the 92-78 win at Virginia Military Institute.
Junior center Al’Lonzo Coleman had a season-high 23 points and sophomore guard Khalid Mutakabbir added a career-high 22 for Presbyterian, which had previously averaged 59.1 points this season.
Despite struggling to score earlier this season, the Blue Hose do have some balance on their team. Coleman (14.6) and Mutakabbir (12.5) lead a group of five players averaging at least 9.1 points this season.
Coleman is also averaging a team-best 7.4 rebounds.
In its three-plus seasons in Division I, Presbyterian is 0-19 against major conference teams and 0-7 versus ranked opponents. The Blue Hose fell 76-67 at then-No. 3 Kansas State on Nov. 18.