Missouri 91, Colorado 82
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—Senior night turned out to be a huge night for Marcus Watkins.
The seldom-used backup forward got his first start of the season in his home finale, largely as a ceremonial nod, and responded with career highs of 15 points and a team-leading six rebounds in Missouri’s 91-82 victory over Colorado on Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you’ve got to lean on that senior leadership, especially as we get to this part of the season,” coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s one of those guys that’s a ‘tweener’ and he hasn’t played as much as he probably wanted, but at the same time he hasn’t said anything.”
Matt Lawrence scored all of his 17 points in the first half for the Tigers (18-10, 7-8 Big 12), who survived a second-half charge by the Buffaloes to win their third straight at home. Lawrence was 5-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, helping Missouri take a 21-point lead, but spent most of the second half on the bench.
“We had guys playing well,” Anderson said. “It was one of those nights where we had to use some other guys and they did a good job.”
The 6-4 Watkins, son of assistant coach Melvin Watkins and Missouri’s lone senior, started ahead of freshman Keon Lawrence and was so effective he ended up playing 26 minutes. Watkins, who averages 1.7 points, scored seven points in the first five minutes en route to topping his previous career best of 11 points March 5, 2006, against Nebraska. He got a nice ovation when he was taken out with 16 seconds to go.
“I was hoping I would start on senior night, but I didn’t know until right before the game,” Watkins said. “They wanted to win the game real bad for me.”
Dominique Coleman had 19 points and nine rebounds and Xavier Silas and Jeremy Williams had 15 each for Colorado (6-19, 2-13), which has lost 13 straight Big 12 road games, including eight this season under lame duck coach Ricardo Patton. The Buffaloes have lost six in a row overall and are 2-34 the last 36 years at Missouri.
“Anytime you get yourself in a hole, it’s tough to come back,” Patton said. “Especially on the road, unless you’re just running a fever and making everything you throw up.”
Patton, finishing his 11th season at Colorado, coaches his final home game on Saturday against Nebraska.
“I’ve got to work even if I have to hang wallpaper,” Patton said. “I’m a working stiff.”
Missouri matched its season best for 3-pointers, going 13-for-30, but missed its first six from long range in the second half to give Colorado a chance to climb back into the game. The Buffaloes twice cut the gap to three points before fading, and Missouri’s 18-for-21 night at the free throw line helped restore a cushion.
“It seemed like we got a 20-point lead so early, so people started relaxing, shooting jump shots, and we weren’t attacking any more,” guard Stefhon Hannah said. “They came back, and we had to keep our poise.”
Colorado opened the second half on an 11-0 run capped by Silas’ 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 52-49 with 16:51 to go, and again shaved Missouri’s lead to three at 56-53 with about 14 minutes left.
“If we played defense the whole game like we did in spurts, we would have won,” Silas said. “But we let down and we lost.”
Missouri led 52-38 at the break, topping 50 points in a half for the second time of the season and first since scoring 59 in a 101-80 opening victory over North Carolina A&T on Nov. 10. Consecutive 3-pointers by Matt Lawrence put Missouri ahead 47-27 and the largest lead was at 50-29 on a 3-pointer by Marshall Brown with 3:14 to go.
Before the game, a moment of silence was observed in honor of Denver Broncos running back and former Missouri star running back Damien Nash, who died Saturday in St. Louis.