COLUMBIA—The only way the Coppin State Eagles could stop Missouri guard Matt Lawrence on Tuesday night was to poke him in the eye.
Lawrence made his first six attempts, all of them three-point shots. On his first miss, which came roughly four minutes into the second half, Lawrence came down holding his face.
He complained he had been hit in the eye, but the official told him he was just upset about finally missing.
"I really did get poked in the eye," Lawrence said.
Lawrence led the Tigers with 18 points despite playing just five minutes in the second half as Missouri cruised to an easy 88-55 win.
A couple of Lawrence's three-point baskets came from several feet behind the three-point line. He didn't hesitate to take shots from anywhere on the floor.
"I think I had it going on a little bit and these guys found me in open spots," Lawrence said. "If I would have missed those (deep attempts), I don't know if coach would have been too happy, but I was just fortunate they went down."
Lawrence's 18 points tied his season high from the team's game with Centenary on Dec. 30. He is shooting 41 percent from three-point range during his senior season, a significant improvement from last year.
The most challenging moment for Lawrence came in the postgame press conference, when a visiting TV sports anchor from China asked him if he thought he could play in the NBA, through a translator.
He stuttered. Then laughed. Then mustered a mumbled response.
"Oh man," Lawrence said. "Everyone has aspirations to play in the NBA, but I'm not too worried about that right now. I don't really foresee that as my future."
After a junior season that was frustrating for Lawrence both individually and in terms of team success, he is having a lot more fun as a senior. It's showing on the court.
Part of what has helped Lawrence improve his three-point stroke is improved play from the guys around him. With a more balanced Missouri attack, defenses can't key on preventing Lawrence from shooting.
"I think we got more options," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "People are going to guard him, but it's like I always say, you've got to pick your poison. Hopefully, we've got some other guys who can step up and knock some shots down as well."