No. 10 Missouri whips Kennesaw State 104-67Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, top, shoots over Kennesaw State's Aaron Anderson, bottom, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 104-67. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)
Missouri players refuse to use final exams week or a lesser opponent as an excuse for a slow start. They also could point to the final score.
Ricardo Ratliffe and Michael Dixon had 18 points each and the 10th-ranked Tigers got rolling near the end of the first half, shooting 60 percent in a 104-67 rout of Kennesaw State on Thursday night.
''You're going to have finals, you're going to have things like that, but every time you get a chance to lace them up, it's fun,'' said Matt Pressey, who added 15 points. ''Yeah, we're all stressed.
''But everybody in the country is stressed that's got finals, so it's nothing new.''
Marcus Denmon added 17 points and Phil Pressey had nine points and 10 assists for the Tigers (10-0), unbeaten after the first 10 games for the first time since an 11-0 start in 1991-92. They ran their homecourt non-conference winning streak to 65 games.
It was Pressey's third time in double-figure assists this season.
''Honestly, we didn't do anything yet,'' Ratlilffe said. ''We just focus on the next game. It doesn't matter if it's Kansas or Christopher Newport, a D-III out of Virginia, we just go out there and play our style, and just come out with a win.''
Coach Frank Haith used the slow start to motivate players, saying ''I thought we were a little too Cadillac.'' But he wasn't overly disappointed Missouri didn't take off earlier in the game.
''You look across the country, I think you see that across the country,'' Haith said. ''We're no different than any other team in the country.''
Freshman Delbert Love had a career-best 27 points with five 3-pointers for Kennesaw State (2-6), which faced a Top 10 team for the second time in school history and has lost four straight. Markeith Cummings had 17 points and six rebounds before fouling out with 3:49 to go.
''We played really hard, we just didn't have some shots go down,'' coach Lewis Preston said. ''They can kind of slow-whip you or they can get you with a lightning strike.''
Haith became the first Missouri coach to win his first 10 games since 1920-21. That's one more than predecessor Mike Anderson, now at Arkansas, who was 9-0 in 2006-07 before consecutive losses to Purdue and Illinois.
Ratliffe was 8 for 10 from the field, Denmon was 8 for 11 and Dixon 5 for 7. Despite a four-guard attack, Missouri had a 36-26 rebounding advantage.
Love had 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first half to keep Kennesaw State somewhat close despite committing 10 turnovers. The Owls made five of their first seven shots and led 15-13 just over 5 1/2 minutes into the game.
Kennesaw State last led at 29-28 with about 7 minutes to go in the first half and were 9 for 24 from 3-point range. The Owls, picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Sun Conference, play at Missouri State on Saturday.
''I thought it was a good opportunity for us to come into an environment like this,'' Preston said. ''Did I know they would be ranked No. 10 in the country? No. But I knew they would be a very good team and I think it's a great chance for us to evaluate some things in a positive way.''
Missouri began the game as one of only nine unbeaten schools, with the first nine victories coming by an average of 25.6 points.
Matt Pressey had 11 points in the first half for Missouri, including a dunk off a turnover after a nice feed from English.
''I thought Matt was outstanding,'' Haith said. ''Great teams, you've got to have a guy on your team like Matt Pressey, a selfless guy that buys into his role completely. When he made some hustle plays, it energized our team.''
Kennesaw State has beaten one Division I school this season.
''I think we kind of let up,'' Love said. ''We didn't play the full 40 (minutes) and it showed in the score at the end of the game.''