Missouri's men's basketball coach Mike Anderson always says his team relies on spurts. And it got a big one Friday in Puerto Rico.
The Tigers used a 17-0 run in a span of less than six minutes late in the first half to help them overwhelm Fairfield 87-59 on the second day of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The offensive flurry was keyed by Matt Lawrence, who made one three-pointer from NBA range and scored 11 of his 14 points in the last eight minutes of the first half.
"We did a good job of mixing up our defense during that spurt and it really helps when you knock down shots," Lawrence said in a phone interview after the game.
The senior guard made four of his six three-point attempts on the night, after shooting just 2-for-10 in Thursday's loss to Xavier. He credited seniors DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons with setting solid screens to help him find open shots.
"We know Matt can shoot the basketball," assistant coach Melvin Watkins said in a radio interview on KFRU. "But the unfortunate part is, our opponents know he can shoot the ball. So we've been challenging him to mix his game up a little bit and what we hope is as this team evolves is that, because other guys can shoot the ball, that Matt might get lost in the shuffle a little bit."
Lawrence is just six three-pointers behind Thomas Gardner for seventh on Missouri's all-time list, with 173 since walking on to the team his freshman year.
The Tigers also rebounded the basketball significantly better than they did Thursday. After being outrebounded by Xavier 39-24, the Tigers had 47 rebounds to Fairfield's 29 on Friday.
"I think Xavier had four or five offensive rebounds off missed free throws," Lawrence said. "So that was definitely a point of emphasis for us to box out on the free-throw line."
Lyons, who had just one rebound against a much bigger and stronger Xavier frontcourt, collected 10 rebounds to go along with his 12 points in just 20 minutes against Fairfield. The Tigers' other senior forward, Carroll, had a team-high 15 points and six rebounds.
With a big lead in the second half, Anderson gave plenty of minutes to his freshman, especially guards Marcus Denmon, Miguel Paul and Kim English. The Tigers' bench, which outscored Fairfield's 33-9, continued to increase the lead against the weary Stags.
"(Getting the freshman minutes) is great not only for now, but especially for the Big 12 season down the road," Lawrence said.
Missouri gets a day of rest on Saturday before it plays its final game of the tournament Sunday at 11:30. The game will be shown on ESPNU. The Tigers, who improved to 3-1 for the season, will play USC. Lawrence said he'll be cheering for the 20th ranked Trojans, which would give Missouri a chance to get its first quality win of the year.
"We've already played Chattanooga," Lawrence said. "So I'd like to play a different team and get a little more experience playing different opponents."