Defense dominates Missouri's focus

Thursday, February 5, 2009 | 7:59 p.m. CST; updated 8:17 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 5, 2009
MU's Zaire Taylor, no. 11, and Kim English, no. 24, block a shot by Baylor's Quincy Acy, no. 4, on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — For Mike Anderson, defense is everything.

The Missouri coach can't seem to talk about anything else.

Next game

Missouri (19-4, 6-2 Big 12) at Iowa State (12-10, 1-6)

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa

TV: KOMU/Channel 8

Radio: KBXR/102.3, KFRU/1400 AM

When the Tigers lose, he blames his defense. When the Tigers win, he credits his defense.

Defense. Defense. Defense.

At Arkansas, Anderson's system was "40 minutes of Hell." Now, it's "the fastest 40 minutes in basketball." New name; same pressure defense.

Anderson has ingrained his philosophy on his players. During a postgame news conference early in the season, freshman guard Kim English said the word "defense" gratuitously after every sentence.

It's that defensive mentality that has Missouri off to a 6-2 start in the Big 12, the Tigers' best record through eight conference games since they started the 1999-2000 season 7-1.

Missouri's six conference wins equals the team's total from last season, and eight games remain on the schedule. What caused this turnaround? You guessed it: defense.

"Our guys are hopefully getting it that our defense is huge in what we do and creates easy offense for us," Anderson said Monday about the difference between Missouri this year and in his first two seasons. "Hopefully, it's something that our guys can continue to bring on is our defense."

And how did Missouri pull of its upset of No. 16 Texas on national TV? More defense.

The offense struggled. Missouri shot 35 percent in the first half, and it failed to dictate the pace of the game, scoring less than 70 points for only the third time all season. The first two times the Tigers didn't crack 70, they lost.

In the second half, Missouri's pressure defense took over the game, wearing down the Longhorns. Texas turned the ball over 15 times, leading to easy Missouri baskets.

"I thought the second half was the difference in the game, our pressure defense," Anderson said in a radio interview. "I thought in the second half, I thought our defense really bothered them, and they wore down."

Missouri goes to Ames, Iowa, on Saturday take on Iowa State. It would be easy for the Tigers to look past the Cyclones to Monday when Kansas visits Mizzou Arena.

Anderson is preventing the Tigers' success from going to his players' heads by emphasizing ... well, you get the idea.

"I've asked these guys to just try to get better each day and every day, and that's what's happening," Anderson said.

The philosophy is simple. So far this season, it's also been effective.

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