COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—Constant reminders about the tough matchup No. 10 Missouri had in store to end the year certainly motivated the Tigers.
They responded by wrapping up their first unbeaten December since 1991-92 with an 81-58 victory over Old Dominion on Thursday night.
Marcus Denmon matched his season best with five 3-pointers and scored 22 points in a game that was expected to go down to the wire.
“The coaches did a good job getting us ready, telling us how good Old Dominion was and telling us they were a senior-led ballclub and they’ve got a lot of experience and older guys,” Denmon said. “So do we. We just came out and executed, and when you’re at home and playing how well we played, that’s what happens.”
Reserve Michael Dixon added 18 points and four assists and Matt Pressey had 15 points, five rebounds and three steals for the Tigers (13-1). Dixon has averaged 12 points off the bench the last three games after a two-game disciplinary suspension for undisclosed violation of team rules.
“I think the thing that took place with him probably humbles him a little bit,” coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s a winner and he wants to help this team win, so it was good to see him come out and do a lot of good things defensively as well as offensively.”
Missouri has won eight in a row, all this month. The Tigers won their 56th in a row at home against non-conference opponents and made it look easy against the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason favorite (9-3), which entered 12th in the RPI off a strong early schedule that included a three-point loss to Georgetown in the opener.
“They put on a good show for the home fans and they’re going to be fun for people to follow this year,” Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said. “I don’t know the Big 12 like the back of my hand but I sure would like to think they’d be pretty stout contenders in that league race.”
Denmon is averaging 19.7 points the last nine games, stepping forward as the team’s leader.
“I feel like Marcus has done a great job of letting things come to him,” Pressey said. “He really doesn’t have to go get it like most players you see around the country.
“His 22, it really comes easy to him.”
Missouri led 37-29 at the half behind 14 points from Denmon and pulled away with 11-2 and 12-2 runs in the second half, ending Old Dominion’s four-game winning streak. Whenever Old Dominion tried to stop the 3-pointer, Missouri scored on drives to the hoop.
“We were out of it tonight,” forward Chris Cooper said. “We have to get it together.”
Poor free throw shooting didn’t hold the Tigers back. They were only 14 for 22 with three players missing a pair.
Missouri was 9-for-19 overall from 3-point range, which Denmon going 5-for-8 and Dixon 3-for-3.
Frank Hassell had 11 points and reserve Marquel De Lancey added 10 for Old Dominion, which committed a season-high 21 turnovers. The Monarchs outrebounded their 13th straight opponent to open the season with a slim 33-32 advantage, but were limited to nine rebounds after entering with an average of 17 per game.
“We had to be physical and make sure we hit people,” Missouri forward Ricardo Ratliffe said. “Even if we couldn’t get the rebound we just made sure our man didn’t get the rebound, so we tried to tip it out.”
Missouri had five players in double figures with Kim English scoring 11 points and Ratliffe 10.
Denmon had 14 points and was 3 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half, leaving Old Dominion with its largest deficit at the break.