The halftime stat sheet foretold a career game for Missouri shooting guard-turned-power forward Kim English. The 6-foot-6 senior’s locker room demeanor suggested otherwise.
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English, the Big 12’s leading 3-point shooter, hit 7 of 10 from behind the arc and scored a career-high 29 points to lead the 21st-ranked Tigers to an 88-59 victory over winless Binghamton on Sunday. But at halftime, despite 22 points and six 3-pointers, all English could think about were the 11 points scored by opposing forward Ben Dickinson, a 6-8 freshman.
”I really came out wanting to stop him more,” English said. ”A shot’s a shot. Those are shots we make every day in practice.”
English also fumed at halftime over failing to grab a single rebound for a team that starts four guards and a 6-8 forward in lieu of a traditional center. That statistic didn’t change in the second half, but Dickinson scored just four more points as Missouri (6-0) rolled to another rout under first-year head coach Frank Haith for its best start since 2006, former coach Mike Anderson’s first season.
That followed impressive wins over Notre Dame (29 points) and California (39) for the CBE Classic title the previous week in Kansas City. Haith, who came to Columbia after seven seasons at Miami, acknowledged that he didn’t expect his new team to so quickly embrace a different coaching philosophy and execute a more controlled style of play compared to Anderson’s helter-skelter, ”fastest 40 minutes in basketball.”
”To play that well, that early, with a new system, it’s a little bit of a surprise,” he said.
Binghamton coach Mark Macon pointed to his team’s 18 turnovers as the difference. Missouri lost the ball just four times.
”They had 35 points off turnovers,” Macon said. ”That was the game right there. …You can’t turn the ball over against a team like Missouri. They’re good at converting turnovers into baskets. And that’s what they did.”
English entered the game hitting 60 percent of his 3-pointers. Normally a shooting guard, or occasionally a small forward, he moved inside after Tigers’ starting power forward Laurence Bowers’ season-ending knee injury in the preseason. English’s previous career-high was 26 against Chattanooga in 2009.
Ricardo Ratliffe added 18 points and five rebounds for Missouri, and was 7 of 7 from the field to build on his Big 12-leading 65 percent field goal percentage entering the game. Marcus Denmon scored 13 points and Michael Dixon added 11 for the Tigers. Point guard Phil Pressey went scoreless and didn’t attempt a shot but had 11 assists, five rebounds and three steals. That’s the most assists by a Tiger since December 2010, and two off the school record.
”I try to find the hot guy,” Pressey said. ”When those guys are hitting, you got to get them the ball.”
Denmon made three of his nine 3-point attempts for Missouri.
Dickinson led Binghamton (0-5) with 15 points.
English scored eight of the Tigers’ first 10 points as they took a 10-2 lead in the game’s first 4 minutes. That deficit was as close as Binghamton would get the rest of the way. The Bearcats, who have also lost this season to Colgate and Cornell, never led and trailed by as many as 37 points in the second half.
English topped his career-high within the first 5 minutes of the second half. He went to the bench with more than 12 minutes remaining and Missouri ahead by 30 points, returning briefly once the game was out of hand.
Excluding English’s contributions, Missouri was just 4 of 22 from 3-point range. But the Tigers shot nearly 55 percent from the field Sunday, hitting 62.1 percent in the first half. Missouri entered the game shooting 51.3 percent from the field.
English credited the unexpected position change, as well as his work with assistant coach Ernie Nestor, with an improved shooting technique to get the ball past taller defenders.
”I’m backing into a lot of shots, so my footwork has to be on point,” he said.
The Bearcats are in rebuilding mode after a 2009-10 season that saw the departure of former coach Kevin Broadus on the heels of recruiting violations and the dismissal of six players for legal troubles and team and university rules violations. Macon, a former Binghamton assistant, took over as interim coach in October 2009 and was later given the permanent job.
An outside review found Broadus circumvented standards to get a player enrolled and lobbied for a player’s grade to be changed. Broadus had his contract bought out by Binghamton for $1.2 million in October 2010, a year after he was suspended by the school.
”We can’t look back and look that way,” Macon said when asked about the rebuilding effort. ”We can only move forward.”
Missouri’s hot start hasn’t translated into fan excitement in Columbia. The announced attendance of 5,037 was a season-low at Mizzou Arena on the final day of the school’s weeklong Thanksgiving break. Missouri next faces Northwestern State at home on Friday.
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier