No. 10 Missouri crushes William & Mary

Missouri sixth-man Michael Dixon can only stand by and hear the roar when his starting teammates are introduced at Mizzou Arena. Once he enters the game, he sure knows how to grab some attention.

The Tigers’ super-sub scored a career-high 30 points as No. 10 Missouri beat William & Mary 94-56 on Sunday for its best start in two decades. That obliterated his previous high of 19 points, set just four games earlier against Northwestern State.

Missouri coach Frank Haith considers Dixon his sixth starter, and the junior guard’s average of 26.2 minutes exceeds or is nearly equal to the time spent on the court by senior starters Ricardo Ratliffe and Matt Pressey.

”When he subs in, other teams are subbing in,” Haith said. ”Mike Dixon’s like a starter. So he’s playing against other team’s subs. I like that matchup.”

Missouri (11-0) jumped to a 19-0 lead over the hapless Tribe, which missed its first eight shots while committing five fouls and 10 turnovers and didn’t score until nearly 12 minutes into the game. William & Mary (2-9) made just five first-half baskets as Missouri took a 44-18 lead.

Kim English added 17 points for Missouri, which last started a season with 11 straight wins under long-time Tigers coach Norm Stewart 20 years ago at the old Hearnes Center.

Ratliffe and Pressey contributed 11 points each as Missouri outscored William & Mary 48-24 in the paint and shot 60 percent for the game. The game-opening run featured a crowd-pleasing dunk by Pressey on an alley-oop pass from his younger brother Phil.

Tim Rusthoven, who missed his team’s first six games, led the Tribe with 14 points. He attributed William & Mary’s horrendous start to a collective case of the jitters.

”We were just kind of nervous getting out there,” Rusthoven said.

Marcus Denmon, Missouri’s leading scorer entering the game with a 20.9 average, was held to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting and went scoreless for most of the first half until converting a reverse layup off a lob pass as he fell to the ground.

That highlight earned the biggest cheer of the day – at least until the game announcer reported that the Kansas City Chiefs upset the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers, or when senior reserve forward Andrew Jones – who joined the team several weeks ago to help shore up a thin front line missing injured starter Laurence Bowers – scored his first two points of the season with free throws in garbage time.

The Tribe attempted to make it respectable early in the second half, scoring 20 points in the first 5 minutes – including a 15-4 run that led to a timeout by Haith – to cut the lead to 18 points before the Tigers further extended it.

Missouri entered the game outscoring its opponents by an average of 26.7 points. The Tigers’ scoring average of 87.3 was second in the NCAA.

Dixon, who shot 13 of 19 for the game with three 3-pointers, two assists and three steals, credited his teammates for recognizing who had the hot hand. His early scoring flurry was aided by several fast-break layups off turnovers. Aside from Denmon, no other Missouri player took more than six shots.

”A lot of guys on this team can score,” Dixon said. ”As long as we make plays, I’m happy.”

Haith, is in his first season at Missouri, compared Dixon to sixth-man Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks, who helped lead his team to the NBA title last season. Dixon typically enters the game alongside starting point guard Phil Pressey, meaning he can heat up on offense without having to worry about distributing the ball.

"Mike has a chance to relax,” Haith said. ”He’s getting a sweat going before he handles the ball as a point.

”I love everything about him, his tenacity, his toughness,” Haith added. ”He has a lot of swag. Mike has really bought into the role.”

Missouri is one of just seven unbeaten teams in Division I, joining Syracuse, Louisville, Baylor, Marquette, Indiana and Murray State. The Tigers next face border rival Illinois on Thursday in St. Louis. The Illini suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday to UNLV.

Missouri will then play one more nonconference game, visiting Old Dominion on Dec. 30, before opening what could be its final Big12 Conference season on Jan. 3 at home against Oklahoma. Missouri is headed to the Southeastern Conference and expects to join the SEC in the fall of 2012.