COLUMBIA — J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor have no problem letting their teammates put up big numbers in the points column.
Taylor and Tiller are known for their defense, and the two junior guards lead the Tigers in steals through 13 games. But even though they only average a combined ten points per game, the two guards are crucial to the Tigers' offense.
"They have a huge role," Matt Lawrence said after Tuesday night's 80-52 drubbing of Centenary College. "They're the guys mainly handling the ball and they get us into what we want to try to do."
Even though they might not be the ones scoring, Tiller and Taylor have created plenty of points for the Tigers this season. Tiller leads the team with 3.2 assists per game, and Taylor has just one less assist this season after getting five Tuesday night against Centenary.
"They're so unselfish," Coach Mike Anderson said. "I think it helps guys like Leo (Lyons) and DeMarre (Carroll) because it puts them in position where they can go ahead and score."
With teams beginning to focus more on Lyons and Carroll inside, like Centenary did Tuesday night, Tiller and Taylor might get some more open looks and be called upon to score more to help the Tigers. Both have shown themselves to be capable.
Taylor played more aggressively and scored 11 points against Illinois, when the Tigers trailed the entire game. He said he's capable of scoring more if that's what the team needs to win.
Tiller has shown an ability to step up offensively in big games. When the Tigers were shorthanded near the end of last season, he responded with a career-high 20 points in an upset of Kansas State. This season, he scored 13 in the loss to Xavier and a season-high 14 on 4-of-6 shooting in the big win over Southern California. Anderson said he's seen dramatic improvement in Tiller each of his three seasons.
"Last year just gave me a taste of what I could be able to do this year and that really gave me a lot of confidence coming into this year," Tiller said.
Taylor had no problem leading the Missouri offense in front of 6,755 fans Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena. He'll have a new challenge Saturday, when the 11-2 Tigers face Georgia in their first true road game.
"The crowd can't steal the ball from me, so I don't really worry about the crowd," Taylor said. "When I'm at home, I love the crowd. It motivates me and when I'm away.."
He paused, then smiled.
"I love the crowd. It motivates me."