Mercer-Missouri Preview

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

While Missouri is forced to use a smaller lineup with Laurence Bowers out for the season, a bounce back season from Kim English would certainly make his absence easier to overcome.

The No. 24 Tigers look to win their 60th straight non-conference home game Monday night against Mercer.

After ranking 10th in scoring among Division I teams last season with 80.8 points per game, Missouri was confident it would be able to continue its up-tempo style under new coach Frank Haith.

The Tigers got off to a good start in Haith's debut, opening with an 83-68 victory over Southeast Missouri State on Friday to extend their non-conference home winning streak to 59 games.

Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe each scored 20 points while English added 19 - including 14 in the second half to help Missouri build on a two-point lead at the break.

English's performance was a promising sign for the Tigers, who are looking for another scorer to go alongside Denmon with Bowers - last season's second-leading scorer - out for the season with a knee injury.

English, who made five of nine 3-pointers, averaged 10.0 points last season while shooting 36.6 percent - down from 14.0 points per game on 39.3 percent shooting in 2009-10.

"I describe it as over," English said. "Last year happened, it's over and I'm just focusing on this year, trying to get better each day. Last year was last year, and it's out of my mind."

While English is looking to improve after putting up sub-par numbers last season, Denmon is coming off a promising campaign. He averaged 16.9 points in 2010-11, making 82 3-pointers. He made only 1 of 4 from beyond the arc Friday, but contributed in other ways, including eight rebounds.

The Tigers went small without the 6-foot-8 Bowers, who averaged 6.1 rebounds last season, and they often had four guards on the floor Friday. However, Denmon is hoping he can continue to be productive on the glass despite being 6-foot-3.

"I feel pretty big out there most of the time," he said, "and it's about who wants it most. I'm trying to get in and mix it up to help my team."

The Tigers, who were outrebounded in the first half Friday, will have another size disadvantage against a young Mercer team, which is coming off a 66-57 win over Division III Emory on Saturday.

The Bears, out of the Atlantic Sun Conference, had a 44-30 rebounding advantage against the Eagles, grabbing 11 offensive boards. They used a starting lineup with four players at least 6-6.

Bud Thomas had a career-high 18 points, nine rebounds and two of Mercer's eight blocked shots.

Mercer lost its last game against a Top 25 team, falling to No. 14 UCLA on the road in 2008. The year before it upset No. 18 USC 96-81 on the road.

Missouri leads the series against Mercer 3-0, winning the most recent matchup 90-63 in 1996.

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