Flanny's Five: Tigers D-up in second half to pound Crimson Tide, 68-47
JAN 18, 2014 5:27p ET
MIZZOU CAN PLAY DEFENSE
Tigers coach Frank Haith called it the best defensive half his squad has played all season.
The Tigers completely clamped down on Alabama after the intermission, turning a tight 31-30 lead into a blowout.
The Tigers did it with an aggressive 3-2 zone that bottled up Alabama's penetrating guards and surrounded Alabama's big men inside.
The Crimson Tide shot an abysmal 17 percent from the floor in the second half, hitting just 4 of 23 shots. The Tide also was 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
"We matched their intensity in the first half," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "But we couldn't match it in the second half. They did a great job with their zone."
The Tigers (14-3 overall, 2-2 SEC) appeared to get some confidence back after dropping two of their first three conference games.
"We were able to use our length from our guards and our big guys," Haith said. "And we stayed aggressive on defense. When we stay aggressive and shut down the passing lanes, we can be pretty good.
"We're young. People forget how young we are -- we have two seniors. But we're growing and getting better. This was a nice confidence booster."
RELEFORD SHUT DOWN
Crimson Tide guard Trevor Releford, who came into the game averaging over 18 points a game, was a disappointment in what was a bit of a homecoming for him.
Trevor, with several relatives in attendance, never got into a groove. He didn't score his first points until hitting a 3-pointer with 4:35 left in the half.
Overall, he had just 10 points and hit just 4 of 16 shots. He fouled out with 1:27 left.
"I'm sure he's disappointed," Grant said. "They did a good job on him. But I thought he had some good looks today and the shots just didn't fall like they normally do for him."
Missouri made a concentrated effort to stop Releford.
"Six eyes. We wanted to have six eyes on him at all times," Missouri guard Jabari Brown said. "You never know with great players like that if they're going to drop 20 or 30 on you, so we made sure to always have six eyes on him and play him tough."
Another explanation for Missouri's 37-17 surge after intermission was the return of Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson sat out 13 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul.
But in the second half, Clarkson came out and scored on two free throws and on a creative, spinning reverse layup to give the Tigers a five-point edge.
Clarkson's presence seemed to pick up the entire team as the Tigers went on a 16-4 run to start the second half.
Clarkson scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
Despite getting in foul trouble again in the first half, he said he can't afford to change his style.
"It's about being aggressive on both ends of the floor," he said. "I have to do that because sometimes I will get the calls, too."
NEW SCORING LEADER
Brown matched his career high with 24 points, hitting 7 of 9 from the floor, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range -- the only Tiger to hit a 3 on Saturday.
In the process, Brown also took over the team lead in scoring now with 319 points to Clarkson's 317.
Brown was asked about the significance of being the top scorer. Does he get to be first in line at the cafeteria now?
"I was always first in line before," Brown said, smiling. "It was just one of those nights where I got the ball in the right spots. They sort of took away the (baseline) from me and I found other ways to score."
J3 COMES UP BIG
Freshman Johnathan Williams III had one of his best games of the season, scoring nine points and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds.
Williams showed some fluid moves around the hoop for a 6-foot-9 player, and on one occasion reversed hands to hit a six-foot runner.
Haith was impressed.
"It was really good to see him attack the basket," Haith said. "He hit the boards hard, played tough defense, and it was nice to see his shots fall around the rim."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter (@jflanagankc) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.