COLUMBIA — With seven newcomers on the Missouri men’s basketball team, coach Mike Anderson has overhauled the Tigers.
And one of the old faces, DeMarre Carroll, has undergone a makeover of his own.
Last season, Carroll shot 3-for-17 from the three-point line. This season, the line is a foot farther back, but that didn’t stop Carroll from firing and connecting on an open three early in the first half of Missouri’s 87-58 exhibition win over Missouri Southern State University on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
Carroll, last season’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, said that he and fellow senior Leo Lyons work on shooting threes every day in practice. He hopes to become a consistent threat.
Anderson told Carroll and Lyons that they can’t shoot threes in games unless they can make them in practice.
“Every day after practice we try to stay around and shoot so we can shoot them in the game,” Carroll said.
When asked if he is looking for Lyons and Carroll to take more threes this season, however, Anderson responded emphatically in the negative.
“No, no, no,” Anderson said. “They just said that. I always tell them to take good shots. I think that’s the key.”
Carroll only attempted the one three-point shot Tuesday. He scored 16 points in 18 minutes to go with 6 rebounds and a team-high 4 steals.
Last season, a high-ankle sprain nagged Carroll through the second half of the season, but he is healthy entering this season. He said he hopes to be more explosive.
“I think I am way more quick I was last year,” Carroll said. “When the season starts, I need to start finishing above the rim. I am just going to put all injuries out the door when the season starts and try to dunk on people.”
Lyons was sent to the bench when he picked up his fourth personal foul less than 30 seconds into the second half. The foul trouble limited Lyons to 13 minutes, but he played well when he was on the floor, scoring 19 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.
Anderson said that Lyons needs to figure out how to avoid the fouls to stay on the floor.
“He’s got to have a little bit more pride in terms of stopping people,” Anderson said.
Sophomore forward Justin Safford stepped in for Lyons off the bench and provided the Tigers with energy and defense. Safford only scored four points in the game, but he grabbed four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots that put a charge into the crowd of 4,304. Anderson said that Safford had earned himself extra playing time with his performance.
“I thought Justin came in and even added,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you want to stay at the same level, but he took it to another level and went on a big spurt.”
Anderson was also impressed with the all-around play of junior guard J.T. Tiller, who pitched in a game-high five assists and shot a perfect 2-for-2 from the floor and 3-for-3 from the foul line.
Late in the game, Anderson started to put Tiller back into the game, but Tiller told the coach he wanted to let his young teammates have a chance to play some extra minutes.
Anderson would like to give his freshmen more time to work out some kinks before the season opener, but he won’t have that luxury.
“We have no choice,” Anderson said. “At this point in time it’s time to go to work.”