Despite lack of size, Missouri looks to turn fortunes against Colorado

The Tigers have only won three of their last 10 games
Thursday, February 21, 2008 | 9:38 p.m. CST; updated 12:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
MU forward Leo Lyons looks to duplicate a 22-point effort from an earlier win over the Buffaloes this season.

The last time the Missouri men’s basketball team played Colorado, forward Leo Lyons scored 22 points to lead a second-half comeback for a Tigers’ victory.

It was one of the few games this season that Lyons was not smaller than the player guarding him.

Forward Marcus King-Stockton, who at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds is virtually the same size as Lyons, was the biggest player in the game for the Buffaloes.

The Tigers have won only three of their past 10 games, but one of those three wins was Lyons’ big game against Colorado.

Missouri doesn’t have a huge size advantage over the Buffaloes, but Colorado lacks a dominant low-post player like Nebraska’s Aleks Maric or Kansas State’s Michael Beasley. Against Missouri, the Buffaloes played 6-foot-6 Richard Roby at power forward.

“I thought the difference (in the first game) was we took advantage of our size,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “You know, guys such as Leo and DeMarre (Carroll), I thought that was the difference in the game. We’re playing them for the second time, and they’re probably playing better than they were at that point in time. We get a chance to hopefully defend the home turf, and the home court, that’s going to be huge for us.”

When the two teams meet again Saturday at Mizzou Arena, Missouri’s forwards should be more aggressive when going to the basket.

“It just gives me the freedom to attack the whole game, basically,” Lyons said. “We’ve utilized our size advantage whenever we have one. We’re a pretty small team, so that’s pretty rare that we get one. So whenever we get one we do utilize it.”

It makes sense that the Tigers might look to get Lyons the ball even more the second time around.

“We watched film of what happened the first time we played them, and Leo had a really good game against them,” guard Matt Lawrence said. “I think we’re definitely going to try to get him the ball a little bit, and let him go to work. If they cut that off, we’re going to have to make adjustments, that’s what it is all about.”

Lyons had scored in double figures in five consecutive games before the Tigers lost 100-63 last Saturday at Kansas State. Lyons had nine points in the defeat, but in two of the five earlier games, Lyons scored more than 20 points.

“It’s just me trying to show what I can do,” Lyons said of his recent play. “A lot of people think I’m inconsistent or whatever. But I just try to go out there and play hard and try to show what I can do. Sometimes, I get the chance to attack a lot of those bigger, slower guys.”

Anderson said he think Lyons can play even better than he has.

“I’d like to see him shore it up a little bit more on the defensive side,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to become a better defensive team. He’s one the guys with size who’s got to come up with some blocks and change people’s shots and do something at the defensive end as well as the offensive end.”

Something that has contributed to Lyons’ scoring has been his ability to make mid-range jump shots consistently.

“I think he’s capable of doing that, I think that’s the versatility that he gives you,” Anderson said. “He can knock that shot down.”

In the first game, Colorado slowed the pace in the first half, holding Missouri to 24 points and building a 10-point halftime lead. In the second half, the pace changed to the up-tempo style the Tigers prefer.

Lawrence said trying to speed up the game starts with playing pressure defense.

“Force them into having to attack the basket and getting up in them and making them do things they aren’t used to doing, like make guys handle the ball that aren’t used to handling the ball,” Lawrence said. “When we get the ball we’re going to run the floor and they are going to have to run with us. And hopefully we can do that on Saturday.”

The Tigers might have more success speeding up Colorado early with a home crowd cheering them on.

“I definitely think it does help us,” Lawrence said of the crowd. “It definitely gets us energized to kind of be in two places at once. A bunch of energy out there, playing passing lanes, getting deflections, I think that home crowd really does help energize us.”

Lyons said the week off after the Tigers fell at Kansas State made that loss worse for him, but he also saw positives to a week off.

“I hate losing, and we’ve got all week to just wait to play and get over it to try to get a win,” Lyons said. “But it’s kind of good, in a way, because we get to rest our bodies and deal with injuries and things like that, take care of them, so we can get ready for Colorado.”

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