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

BY foxsports • November 18, 2011

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