COLUMBIA — Since his first press conference of the year, Missouri men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson has been talking about how deep his team is. He said he feels like the Tigers have eight or nine starters as opposed to just the five guys that walk out on the court at the beginning of the game.
In Saturday afternoon’s 97-84 victory against No. 12 Texas, the Tigers finally showed what their coach has been talking about.
A season-high six Tigers players scored in double figures, and three of them put together their highest scoring totals of the year. Guard Keon Lawrence led Missouri with 18 points, guard Jason Horton scored 16 and forward Marshall Brown had 14.
Brown and Lawrence came off the bench and propelled the Tigers’ bench to a 38-10 scoring advantage over the Longhorns’ bench.
Horton said the balanced attack came down to a simple virtue that children learn in kindergarten: sharing.
“Sharing the ball, that’s hard to guard, when you’ve got multiple people hitting shots.” Horton said. “That’s what we did today, we shared the ball and everybody was making shots.”
The team effort was necessary for Missouri to knock off a Texas team that has become one of the elite schools in the country, and is stocked with blue-chip high school recruits.
“I thought our whole team played well,” Anderson said. “When you have six guys in double figures, that’s pretty amazing. It wasn’t just a half court game. We pushed the ball well across the court and were able to use that to our advantage.”
Maintaining that balance will be important for Missouri as Big 12 Conference play continues, and Lawrence said the Tigers have that potential.
“We really capable of doing it,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got a lot of people that can put it in the basket.”
Horton was the poster boy for Missouri’s team effort on Saturday. What jumped off the stat page wasn’t his season-high, but that he didn’t miss a shot.
Despite his big day, Horton said success for the rest of the season for the Tigers doesn’t depend on any one player, but instead on everyone playing hard for the team.
“(We have to) keep focusing on being a team,” Horton said. “Just looking at the guy next to you and knowing that you want to play hard for that guy. And knowing that you want that guy to do well. That’s a big key, just looking into your team and not into yourself.”
Missouri’s balance offset the star power of Texas. Guards D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams are the second and third leading scorers in the Big 12, but MU’s deep bench is what Anderson said put Missouri in position for the upset.
“Fatigue was definitely a factor in the game,” Anderson said. “And it was good that our bench was able to step up and keep our energy at a high level.”
Missouri trailed 40-38 at halftime, but outscored the Longhorns 59-44 in the second half.
Forward DeMarre Carroll said that he could see that Texas was wearing down, noting that Augustin was missing free-throw attempts that are usually automatic. Augustin made just three of his eight free-throw attempts on Saturday, but was shooting 82 percent coming into the game.
Once Carroll noticed it, he said that it was a matter of Missouri pushing a little harder for the victory to become reality.
“This is like stepping on an ant with a sledgehammer,” Carroll said. “We had them right under our feet and we just stepped on them.”
The result improved the Tigers at 11-5 and dropped the Longhorns to 13-3.
LAWRENCE TURNING IT AROUND: Keon Lawrence had been stuck in a prolonged shooting slump, but in the two games the Tigers have played since the calendar turned to 2008, he has been much improved.
In the final six games of 2007, Lawrence shot a combined 14 for 47. In the two games in 2008, against UMKC and Texas, Lawrence has made eight of his 15 attempts, and against the Longhorns on Saturday, he had a streak as good as any he has had this season.
In the first half Lawrence was five of six from the field and scored 15 of his 18 points.
“I was just like ‘I’m catching ready to shoot.’” Lawrence said. “I know I can knock it down, so it’s just a matter of me having confidence in my shot.”
STREAKS STOPPED: The Tigers’ victory put an end to two streaks for Texas.
The Longhorns had won nine straight games against Missouri coming in to Saturday’s game. The most recent time the Tigers defeated Texas before Saturday was when they won 54-47 on Feb. 27, 1999 in Austin, Texas.
Texas coach Rick Barnes also had won all nine of his Big 12 openers before Saturday’s game.
LARGE CROWD: There were many happy spectators after the Missouri victory. A season-best 13,085 were in attendance. The previous season-high at Mizzou Arena came on Dec. 8 when 7,699 watched the Tigers beat Purdue 73-63.
“Kudos to our fans,” Anderson said. “I’ve always said that when they show up, they make a difference. You could really tell in the second half that their energy took our guys to another level.”
Maximum capacity at Mizzou Arena is 15,061.