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Missouri uses 3-point barrage to top Niagara 83-52
By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press Friday, Nov 18, 2011

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—With four guards and a 6-foot-8 forward in the starting lineup, height-challenged Missouri doesn’t expect to rely much on its inside presence. After an early-season rout against Niagara on Thursday night, that approach may not be necessary for the Tigers.

Marcus Denmon scored 22 points to lead five Missouri players in double figures, and the No. 24 Tigers rode a hot-shooting first half to an easy 83-52 win.

Kim English added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey and sixth-man Michael Dixon scored 12 points each for Missouri (3-0) in its final regional game of the College Basketball Experience Classic before facing Notre Dame and either California or Georgia next week in Kansas City.

“We take what the defense gives us,” said English, a 6-foot-6 shooter starting at power forward after the preseason loss of 6-foot-8 starter Laurence Bowers to a knee injury. “We have four guards out there. It’s kind of pick your poison.”

Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason led Niagara (1-1) with 10 points each. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school shot 34 percent overall and made just five of its 26 attempts from long range, all in the second half once the game was out of hand.

Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said his young team—the Purple Eagles start three freshmen and a sophomore—played “scared” and “tentative.”

“We wasted that opportunity to have a good learning experience,” he said. “We’re still searching for an identity here. We don’t know who we are yet.”

Missouri went 12 of 22 from beyond the arc, with nine of those coming in the first half on 14 attempts. Missouri also had 13 steals—led by point guard Phil Pressey with five—and forced 16 turnovers.

On the offensive side, the Tigers had just three turnovers in a pivotal first half and seven overall. New Missouri coach Frank Haith, who wants to bring a more disciplined, full-court approach to replace his predecessor Mike Anderson’s “fastest 40 minutes” style, liked what he saw.

“I thought it was the best game we’ve played,” Haith said. “Nobody was really hunting shots.”

Missouri’s four-guard lineup repeatedly beat the similarly undersized Purple Eagles to loose balls and long rebounds. The Purple Eagles play just as small, with four guards and a 6-foot-8 forward as starters. Other than 6-foot-9 reserve Steve Moore, the 6-foot-8 Ratliffe is Missouri’s tallest player.

Phil Pressey was especially active on defense, with two nifty saves of loose balls headed out of bounds igniting fast breaks. He had a behind-the-back save in first half and a no-look, over-the-head down court toss in the second. The 5-foot-10 Pressey also had a crowd-pleasing breakaway dunk to extend Missouri’s lead to 34 points with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game.

Niagara scored the game’s first point but was never in it after that. Missouri led by as many as 40 midway through the second half after a 26-9 run, allowing Haith to insert little-used walk-on Jarrett Sutton with 11 minutes remaining. He was joined by fellow walk-on Andy Rosburg in the game’s final minutes.

Matt Pressey capped the first half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving Missouri a 45-22 lead, its biggest of the game at that point. Missouri began the second half the same way it closed the first, with a Denmon 3-pointer from the left corner extending the lead to 26 points.

Denmon was 5 for 8 from 3-point range, English was 4 of 6 and Pressey 2 of 3. Missouri’s 12 treys topped its previous season high against Mercer by one.

The Tigers’ 3-point shooting percentage of 55 percent easily exceeded their success from two-point range, where they shot under 24 percent and converted just 13 baskets.

Missouri extended its school-record winning streak over nonconference opponents at home to 61 games, dating to their 2005-06 season opener.

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