Missouri frontcourt held in check

Saturday, December 13, 2008 | 10:26 p.m. CST; updated 11:30 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 13, 2008
Murray State's Ivan Aska, left, and Isacc Miles, right, corral Missouri's Leo Lyons during the first half of the Tigers' 75-64 victory over the Racers on Dec. 13 at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — Missouri came into Sunday's game with the top scoring frontcourt duo in the Big 12 Conference. Murray State didn't have a starter taller than 6-foot-7.

It seemed clear where the Tigers would find success.

But in a 75-64 Tiger victory, the Racers outscored Missouri 40-30 in the paint. Seniors DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons combined for 27  points in 58 minutes. It was the lowest output of the year in a game where both played more than 42 minutes. It was also nine points below their season average.

"I thought we slowed down ourselves," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "It just seemed like we were out of sync. Even though we caught the ball down low, they were stripping the ball."

Carroll, 6-foot-8, got his only points of the first half with 11 minutes left, and it took Lyons even longer.  Lyons made a jumper for his first two points with seven minutes to play in the first half. The 6-foot-9 senior grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, but he had to work harder than usual for most of his 14 points. That included his only three-pointer of the season, with a hand in his face as the shot clock was winding down.

"We made an emphasis of really trying to dig in in the post and cause some havoc with Lyons," Murray State coach Billy Kennedy said. "We wanted him to shoot jump shots. That's the only chance we had with their size advantage and experience."

Murray State collapsed heavily on Missouri's big men and double-teamed Carroll and Lyons whenever it got the opportunity. By keeping the Tigers closer to the perimeter, the Racers were even able to out rebound Missouri 35-33.

Although Carroll and Lyons have dominated all season long, their backups haven't presented much of an offensive threat. Keith Ramsey and Justin Safford are averaging less than eight points per game combined despite playing more than 11 minutes per game. Even with Missouri blowing away several smaller schools this season, neither Ramsey or Safford has reached double figures.

Missouri's offense looked especially out of sync when Lyons and Carroll sat on the bench together for two-minute stints in each half. With the pair on the bench in the first half, the Racers scored nine consecutive points to force a Missouri timeout. With them out in the second half, the Tigers were outscored 6-3, but they also needed the ball for 30 seconds to get their only field goal and turned the ball over twice in four possessions.

"I thought they were kind of tentative," Anderson said. "Our bench has played awful well up until this point. Tonight wasn't one of their best nights."

Anderson said Missouri is going to need Ramsey and Safford to perform better later in the season against tougher competition. If Lyons and Carroll get into foul trouble, or fall victim to injury, the Tigers will have some big holes to fill offensively in Big 12 play.

"They work hard in practice, and they've shown in practice that it's a matter of taking it to the game," Anderson said. "They're going to have plenty of opportunities. I would like to see them play more in a game like this, and I think the more time they get, I think the more they get comfortable out there."



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