COLUMBIA — Leo Lyons ran down the floor following a steal, took a pass from Miguel Paul, and threw down an uncontested two-handed dunk to put Missouri ahead 89-77 with 2:06 to play.
It was a fitting exclamation point to the game for Lyons, who scored a team-high 26 points to lead the Missouri men's basketball team to a 92-83 victory Sunday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. The senior forward added eight rebounds to help the Tigers survive a late rally from Oral Roberts, which cut a 19-point lead to 81-75 with 3:20 to play.
"Leo, he had a mismatch for the most part, most of the night," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "Early on, he wasn't finishing, but in the second half he did a better job."
Lyons started the second half with a missed dunk as he drove down the lane, but he got the ball back seconds later for an easy layup. Although Kansas City native Dominique Morrison challenged Missouri's big men on the offensive end, scoring 17 points, none of the Golden Eagles could match up defensively with Lyons or his fellow senior forward, DeMarre Carroll.
"Any given night, if it's not my night, I can just tell Leo to step up," said Carroll, who scored 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds. "If it's not his night, he can tell me to step up."
Lyons and Carroll have both led Missouri in scoring in three games this season. They've also been the team's top two scorers in four of the season's six games.
Missouri's bench has helped the two big men stay fresh and productive. Lyons' 28 minutes on Sunday was the most time he has seen on the floor in a game all season.
In their first game since beating USC in Puerto Rico on Nov. 23, the Tigers struggled to maintain a high energy level. Late in the first half and again midway through the second half, Missouri saw big leads quickly evaporate. The Tigers' defense forced 12 turnovers, its lowest total all season. Oral Roberts, led by Robert Jarvis' 34 points, shot 46.3 percent from the field for the game, and made eight out of 14 three-pointers.
"I just thought we were flat for the most part," Anderson said. "The second half, the first four minutes, I thought we came back with some energy. Then we just had to hold on."
In a tightly called game, Lyons and Anderson both highlighted the need to attack the basket and draw fouls from the Oral Roberts big men when the Golden Eagles made the game close again in the second half. Lyons made 8-of-10 free throws, including 5-of-6 down the stretch. He said he has been putting in extra work at the stripe since he made 10-of-22 free throws in three games in Puerto Rico.
"We're going to be an attacking team, so we've got to make people pay at the free-throw line," Anderson said.
The crowd of 5,229 at Mizzou Arena was appreciative of Lyons' efforts Sunday to help the Tigers improve to 5-1. He and Carroll are likely to have the advantage in some mismatches again on Tuesday when Missouri hosts 0-5 Arkansas Pine-Bluff.