Missouri uses 3-point barrage to top Niagara 83-52

Facing its first ranked opponent in three seasons on Thursday

night, Niagara wanted at the very least to give No. 24 Missouri its

best shot.

Instead, Purple Eagles coach Joe Mihalich called the 83-52 loss

a wasted opportunity.

”We didn’t have the experience I wanted to have,” Mihalich

said. ”Win, lose or draw, you want to feel like you got better.

You want to feel like you played. And I don’t think our guys

did.”

Marcus Denmon scored 22 points to lead five Missouri players in

double figures, and the Tigers rode a hot-shooting first half to an

easy win.

Kim English added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Ricardo

Ratliffe, Matt Pressey and sixth-man Michael Dixon scored 12 points

each for Missouri (3-0) in its final regional game of the College

Basketball Experience Classic before facing Notre Dame and either

California or Georgia next week. Niagara (1-1) travels to South

Dakota State on Monday.

”That’s a terrific team,” Mihalich said. ”That’s a likable

team. We didn’t get better tonight. We want to keep getting better.

I don’t know if we did tonight. We played scared. We played

tentative. We didn’t leave it all out there.”

Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason led Niagara with 10 points each.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school shot 34 percent

overall and made just five of its 26 attempts from long range, all

in the second half once the game was out of hand.

Missouri’s four-guard lineup repeatedly beat the similarly

undersized Purple Eagles to loose balls and long rebounds. Niagara

plays just as small, with four guards and a 6-foot-8 forward as

starters.

”We’re still searching for an identity here,” Mihalich said.

”We don’t know who we are yet. We started three freshmen and a

sophomore. We’re trying to figure out who’s going to score, who’s

going to defend, who’s going to do this, who’s going to do

that.”

Niagara scored the game’s first point but was never in it after

that. Missouri led by as many as 40 midway through the second half

after a 26-9 run, allowing coach Frank Haith to insert little-used

walk-on Jarrett Sutton with 11 minutes remaining. He was joined by

fellow walk-on Andy Rosburg in the game’s final minutes.

”We need to come better prepared for big teams like that, have

better energy coming out,” Green said.

Missouri went 12 of 22 from beyond the arc, nine of those coming

in the first half on 14 attempts. Missouri also had 13 steals – led

by point guard Phil Pressey with five – and forced 16

turnovers.

Denmon was 5 for 8 from 3-point range, English was 4 of 6 and

Matt Pressey 2 of 3. Missouri’s 12 treys topped its previous season

high against Mercer by one.

”They’re a team that thrives off the shots,” Marvin Jordan

said. ”Once they get hot, it’s hard to cool them down. That was

our fault as a team, letting them get hot early, because the rim

just got bigger and bigger for them.”

The Tigers’ 3-point shooting percentage of 55 percent easily

exceeded their success from two-point range, where they shot under

24 percent and converted just 13 baskets.

Matt Pressey capped the first half with a 3-pointer at the

buzzer, giving Missouri a 45-22 lead, its biggest of the game at

that point. Missouri began the second half the same way it closed

the first, with a Denmon 3-pointer from the left corner extending

the lead to 26 points.

Missouri extended its school-record winning streak over

nonconference opponents at home to 61 games, dating to their

2005-06 season opener.

Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at

http://twitter.com/azagier