COLUMBIA — As the bench goes, so do the Missouri Tigers.
Since his opening remarks of the season at the teams’ first media day, Missouri coach Mike Anderson has stressed how important the bench players are to his basketball team.
As the season has progressed, the statistics are backing up his words.
In Missouri’s 15 wins this season, the bench has averaged 30 points. In its 12 losses, the bench has averaged 21 points.
There are exceptions, though. The bench’s two best scoring performances from the came in Tigers losses: 44 points against Texas Tech and 43 points against Texas A&M.
And the bench scored just 21 points in a wins against Maryland and Central Michigan. But in general, when the bench plays well, the Tigers win.
The most recent example came Saturday when non-starters scored 32 of Missouri’s 60 points in its victory against Colorado.
“I’ve always said that the most important component of our basketball team is our bench,” Anderson said after Saturday’s game. “You’ve got to find somebody to come off there and give you a lift.”
Guard Matt Lawrence said the bench is “huge” for the Tigers.
“Tonight we (starters) came out kind of flat, and Colorado got to the basket on us pretty easily,” Lawrence said after Saturday’s game. “So when you have a bench that comes out and goes out there and gets stops, gets easy buckets, gets good looks, and just gets us back in the flow of the game. Like coach said, we have multiple starters and they really stepped up for us tonight.”
Anderson rotates a lot of players off the bench. It is necessary to keep players fresh for his fast-paced style of play, and he is also trying to find the right mix of personnel to win on a given night.
“It’s a brother-in-law team. It might not be your day, but it’s going somebody’s day, you hope,” Anderson said. “I thought that’s what took place in this game.”
Missouri has used six different starting lineups this year, but since the Jan. 30 game against Nebraska, guards J.T. Tiller, Keon Lawrence and Matt Lawrence and forwards Vaidotas Volkus and DeMarre Carroll have been the starters.
That makes a bench of guards Jason Horton, Michael Anderson Jr. and Nick Berardini, along withforwards Leo Lyons, Marshall Brown, Justin Safford and Darryl Butterfield.
Anderson pointed out after Saturday’s game that Butterfield sparked the team in the first half with seven points, and Horton made a shot with 35 second left to put the Tigers ahead by six points.
“It’s all the little things adding up, and I thought that was the reason we won the game tonight,” Anderson said.