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Freshman guards provide spark off the bench

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 11:21 p.m. CST

In the five games following the season opener against Prairie View A&M, Missouri's three freshman guards struggled from the field, shooting a combined 34 percent.

Coach Mike Anderson would be the first to point out that they've been doing plenty of things that don't show up in the stat book, justifying the significant minutes they've been getting off the bench. In Tuesday's 95-41 victory against Arkansas Pine-Bluff, the three young backcourt players got even more minutes than usual and showed they can also shoot, making 11 of 21 shots, including five three-pointers.

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Kim English led the way with 13 points in 16 minutes, and made three of his first four three-pointers. If English had made his fifth and final attempt from beyond the arc, he would have surpassed Matt Lawrence as the team's leading scorer for the night.

"I'm always pretty confident," English said. "I think every shot's going to go in, so it's just nice to see the ball go through the net finally."

Marcus Denmon scored 11, his highest total since he tallied 15 in the opener against Prairie View A&M. He also finally made a shot from behind the three-point line, where he's shot 0 for 14 the last 5 games.

"Marcus is a scorer. He's got a strong body, he's athletic, he can get in there and wheel and deal," Anderson said. "He can run the lanes, he can put it on the floor, and I think the added bonus is he can also shoot three-pointers."

Miguel Paul scored just three points, but he also had his second straight game with five assists.

The Tigers may have been dominating the Golden Lions, but Anderson said the game was still a valuable learning experience for his young players. Midway through the first half, with Missouri ahead 26-8, Coach Anderson had to briefly bench his energetic point guard for turning the ball over when he tried to throw a difficult alley-oop pass.

"Miguel has a little flair about him, you notice that," Anderson said. "I mean, he gets excited so sometimes I have to remind him it's better to be clever than fancy sometimes. But I thought he did pretty well out there from a defensive standpoint."

If Missouri is going to keep up its frenetic pace for 40 minutes every game, it's going to depend heavily on the freshmen to keep its starters fresh. So far, the guard play is a significant reason Missouri leads the Big 12 in turnover margin and assists.

"We work every day, we get chemistry together every day and our friendship off the court translates to unselfish play off the court," English said.


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