Mizzou smashes Sooners by 38 in Big 12 opener

By Darren Hellwege
Photos by Kaveh Kaghazi

Kim English notched game-high's in points (23), rebounds (nine) and steals (two) during Tuesday night's Big 12 opener.

There could be a more flowery way of describing Missouri men’s basketball’s league opener on Tuesday, but let’s just be straight forward about the whole thing — Missouri kicked Oklahoma’s butt.

The Sooners, now 10-3, got clobbered, 87-49 at Mizzou Arena. It was the second largest margin of victory ever for the Tigers in a Big 12 game and the biggest win for the Tigers against Oklahoma in close to 90 years.

There was domination everywhere you looked. The Sooners came into the game fourth in the nation in rebounding. The Tigers out-rebounded them 38-23. Missouri held a team which had shot a league-high 40 percent on 3-pointers, to only 27 percent. While Kim English led the way for the Tigers with 23 and Marcus Denmon added 20, the Sooners had only one player with more than 11 points—Andrew Fitzgerald, whose 18 tied his season-high.

“I’m really surprised,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We didn’t offer much resistance. My guys don’t like this feeling any better than I do.”

It was a whoopin’. And it was a whoopin’ from the moment the ball went up. By the time the sell-out crowd had settled into their seats, the Tigers had jumped up 7-0. Even through a streak where OU made five straight field goals, the Tigers held the lead. After the Sooners pulled within four, Missouri went on a 23-9 run and by halftime it was 43-25. The game was as good as over and at least one Tiger said he saw that from the opponents quite a bit earlier than that.

“After our first five jumped out early, you could see (Oklahoma) had their heads down,” said MU guard Mike Dixon. Dixon was solid off the bench, with four assists and 13 points.

If things were bad for Oklahoma in the first half, they got worse in the second, as MU went on a 26-6 run, and the game took on epic proportions. The 38-point win was the largest margin of victory for the Tigers since a 33-point dismantling of Iowa State last year at Mizzou Arena.

Coach Frank Haith said he could note a real different feel at practice Monday. Haith said the team was excited after watching a few minutes of the league opener—Baylor’s 61-52 win against Texas A&M—before practice.

The Tigers came in leading the nation in shooting percentage, shooting better than 51 percent. They topped that on Tuesday, shooting a remarkable 59 percent. But it was the rebounding margin that Haith was bragging about after the game.

“This is an emphasis all the time for us. We got stun-gunned at Old Dominion, we didn’t rebound well, and our practices since have been really intense,” Haith said.

Haith mentioned the need to “gang rebound” and to secure the ball. That was something the Tigers did well. English led with nine rebounds, followed by eight from Ricardo Ratliff and seven from Denmon. Perhaps no number is more telling than the Sooners’ lack of offensive rebounds. The Big Red, averaging an impressive 16 offensive rebounds a game, had only seven.

The Tigers play at Kansas State Saturday afternoon. Coach Haith may have summed up what lies ahead for the Tigers when he said, “Manhattan’s a tough place.”

Then he paused, thought about it, shook his head, and said “everywhere in the Big 12 is a tough place to play.”

NOTES

  • Gene Bartow passed away Tuesday evening of cancer. The native of Linn County and graduate of the school now known as Truman State University, is best known for following John Wooden at UCLA and establishing greatness at Alabama-Birmingham. Bartow started his coaching career as a successful high school coach in the state, and with several years at Central Missouri. He coached two Final Four teams and earned a place in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Kadeem Green has decided to leave Missouri. A highly-touted recruit out of Charlotte, his arrival on the Tiger scene was delayed by a serious Achilles tendon injury in high school. Green was averaging more than 10 minutes per game this season and the redshirt freshman had the potential to contribute a lot to the program in the future. But his forward position has seen some other excellent recruits choose to come to Missouri and he may have felt his future wasn’t going as far at MU as it will elsewhere.
  • Asked about replacing him in the lineup, Haith noted that the Tigers had been mostly playing seven guys (the five starters plus Dixon and Moore) and said he expected Andrew Jones to pick up much of the minutes that might have gone to Green. “He needs to get into basketball shape,” Haith said of Jones, who only joined the team a few weeks back after playing tight end for the Tiger football team the last four seasons. “But we love his toughness. He’s an energy guy.”
  • Several players mentioned appreciation for the large, enthusiastic crowd. Announced as a sellout, the arena was rocking most of the night, especially given that it was a mid-week game, the first league game, and that most students are out of town. Asked to compare the atmosphere at that at his previous stop, Haith showed the class to not take a shot at Miami, instead focusing on the present. “I’m truly honored to be the coach at Missouri,” Haith said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

  • The Tigers travel to Kansas State Saturday for their first road game of the Big 12 season. Before playing cross-state rival Kansas Wednesday, the Wildcats were 11-1 and ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press. K-State’s schedule includes a win against then-ranked Alabama and a tough double-overtime loss to West Virginia. The Wildcats bring balanced scoring, and freshman Thomas Gipson is second in the conference in offensive rebounds per game…or, maybe he’s first since the guy he trailed, Romero Osby of Oklahoma, had none on Tuesday.
  • The Tigers next get their final taste of “Hilton Magic,” playing next Wednesday, Jan.11 at Iowa State. The Cyclones are 10-3 this year, but 8-1 playing at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. ISU has out-rebounded its opponent in 12 of their 13 games this season. Interesting side note: of their three losses, two are to in-state rivals, falling to Drake 74-65 and Northern Iowa 69-62.
  • MU returns to Mizzou Arena on Saturday, Jan. 14, to welcome the Texas Longhorns. Like Iowa State the Horns are 10-3, but they’ve played a slightly rougher schedule including an 82-63 loss to No. 5 North Carolina. Texas’ J’Covan Brown has scored at least 20 points 15 times this season. Only two players in the league have done so more often: Keiton Page of Oklahoma State with 18 and, with 23 as of Tuesday night, Missouri’s Marcus Denmon.
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