COLUMBIA – DeMarre Carroll understands, better than most, the importance of being a strong senior leader.
Carroll, a 6-foot-8 forward, led the Missouri men's basketball team with 27 points in Saturday's 97-86 win over Texas Tech. It was the Tigers' fourth straight win and record 14th straight at Mizzou Arena.
"My teammates, they saw I was hot, so they kept giving me the ball," Carroll said.
Missouri Coach Mike Anderson praised Carroll's heart, and referred to him as one of his "blue-collar" players, along with J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor and Keith Ramsey. Carroll scored nine points in the last eight minutes, including two big shots that, with the shot clock running down, protected the team's lead.
"He had the advantage over the big guy that was guarding him," Anderson said, "so it was good to see him knock that down, and all that does is give him some confidence."
After Missouri nearly blew a big lead at Oklahoma State on Wednesday, Anderson said he talked with his team about getting the ball to players in a good position to score. Just as he did when he scored a season-high 29 points to lead Missouri to a win over USC, Carroll showed no hesitation attacking the basket and beating his defender.
Scoring hasn't been much of a problem for Missouri this season. The Tigers are scoring more than 85 points per game, and 11 different players have scored in double figures at least once. But Anderson has struggled to find consistent scorers.
"With our team you have so many options that you're seeing different guys step up," Anderson said. "I think the key is we've got to have somebody to step up."
Carroll has been that guy the most often this season, scoring 16.3 points per game. The only two times he failed to reach double figures — against Illinois and at Nebraska — the Tigers lost.
With Leo Lyons' productivity and playing time down since his one-game suspension, Carroll is emerging as the closest thing to a star in the Tigers' offense. It's a new role for a player who earned the nickname "Junkyard Dog" before he transferred from Vanderbilt after his sophomore year.
"At Vanderbilt he didn't play that way," Anderson said. "He was more around the basket. That's all he did: shoot jump hooks and rebound the shots that those guys shot."
J.T. Tiller, who had a career-high seven steals against Texas Tech, said "Junkyard Dog" remains an apt name for Carroll, who was leading the team in steals going into the game.
Perhaps the biggest improvement for Carroll, a Birmingham, Ala., native, has been his shooting. Anderson said it's something Carroll worked on a lot during the offseason, and it's showing in the games.
Carroll is shooting 59 percent this season, compared to 53 percent during his junior year. He's also extended his range, making seven-of-17 three-pointers, compared to just three last year in the same number of attempts.
"I think he's really progressed," Anderson said. "I think that's the key with guys that come through. I think he's really developed and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now."