Denmon helps No. 8 Mizzou hold off Old DominionBy HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer Friday, Dec 30, 2011
NORFOLK, Va. (AP)—Marcus Denmon saw the opening on the fast break on a previous trip downcourt. With No. 8 Missouri getting all it could handle from Old Dominion and just over a minute left, he went there again.
Denmon scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 61 seconds to play Friday night as the Tigers survived a scare with a 75-68 victory over the Monarchs.
“I went to the spot I saw was open and just shot a shot I shoot 1,000 times a week,” Denmon said. “I understood it was an important part of the game, and I just wanted to win the game.”
Kim English added 16 points for the Tigers (13-0), Ricardo Ratliffe had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Phil Pressley scored 14 as Missouri continued its best start since opening 19-0 in 1981-82.
Early in the second half, it looked as though the Tigers were about to run away as Denmon hit three 3-pointers and English hit two in a 20-9 run that gave them a 53-44 advantage with 15:39 to play.
Missouri scored on its first eight possessions of the half, then got nothing on its next seven as Old Dominion stiffened on defense and scored the next seven points.
Iliadis hit a 3-pointer to make it 53-51 with 12 minutes to go, and after the teams traded baskets, Missouri was whistled for a 5-second violation after failing to inbound the ball.
“We didn’t want it to happen, but you understand, once you get to January, late December, you’re playing good teams for the rest of the year,” English said. “Old Dominion is a tournament team in an amazing league—two Final Four teams in the last six years. We didn’t take them lightly at all.”
Old Dominion (6-7) was spurred on by a raucous sellout crowd and able to match the Tigers physically. But after Denmon’s 3-pointer made it 70-67, he hit both ends of a one-and-one with 42 seconds left, and the Monarchs ran out of rallies.
“It’s hard not to be flooded with `what ifs?”’ Monarchs coach Blaine Taylor said, citing 3-point shots that looked as if they were going in, and his team’s inability to follow one good play with another.
“We weren’t able to back up a really good play with a second really good play,” Taylor said. “Most of our really good plays were in answer to their big plays.”
Kent Bazemore led Old Dominion with 16 points, Trian Iliadis added 15, and Chris Cooper had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Denmon, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half, hit four after the break—three in the first 3 minutes—as the Tigers came out of the locker room with a 20-9 run.
But Old Dominion rallied to finally draw even with 5:54 left, and it went to the wire.
Michael Dixon’s driving layup and free throw gave the Tigers a 63-62 lead with 3:16 to play, but Cooper hit a jumper over Steve Moore and was fouled with 2:43 to play. He made the shot and the free throw, and the Monarchs were back in front 65-63 heading into a timeout.
Ratliffe was fouled while scoring inside at the other end, but missed the free throw. The back-and-forth scoring continued with Bazemore scoring on a layup from the right side for the Monarchs before Ratliffe tied it again from the inside. The Tigers made a steal, but Old Dominion stole it back.
Bazemore’s driving shot came up short for the Monarchs with just over a minute to play before Denmon headed for the right corner the next trip down, in transition, and made the biggest shot of the game.
First-year Tigers coach Frank Haith smiled when asked his thoughts about the quick trigger.
“What do you want me to say,” he said. “He made it. … We’ll take that shot most nights.”
Once Denmon added the free throws, the Tigers held on, capping an unbeaten non-conference start to the season before opening Big 12 play against Oklahoma on Jan. 3.
“We’re really happy with 13 wins heading into conference play, but we understand that none of those wins matter,” Denmon said.
The first half was just a sign of what was to come.
An early 9-2 run gave Missouri a 13-9 lead, but Old Dominion responded with a 10-2 burst finished by Donte Hill’s putback and a basket by Cooper. That made it 23-19, and the game remained close the rest of the half with the Monarchs taking a 35-33 lead into the locker room.
The Tigers, who came in second nationally shooting nearly 52 percent, were just 12 for 27 in the half and were outrebounded 20-15. They also missed seven of 15 free throws.
Follow Hank on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr