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Missouri never trails on its way to 20th win

Saturday, February 7, 2009 | 7:02 p.m. CST; updated 7:12 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 8, 2009
Iowa State's Craig Brackins (21) defends against Missouri's DeMarre Carroll (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday in Ames, Iowa.

The Missouri men's basketball team is off to its best start in 15 seasons.

The Tigers beat Iowa State 82-68 Saturday to push their record to 20-4. The last time Missouri reached 20 wins so early in a season was 1994, when the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.

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Missouri's 7-2 conference record ties its best start since the Big 12 started competition in 1996.

"Our guys are getting better," coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game. "They're trusting one another. They're encouraging one another while they're out there on the floor. They're making plays."

With Monday's rivalry game against Kansas at Mizzou Arena looming, the Tigers made sure not to look past the Cyclones.

"We looked past Kansas State, and they whupped us," freshman guard Kim English said. "Today we came out, we focused on defense, and we got the win."

Senior DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 31 points and had nine rebounds to lead Missouri. Before the game, he told Anderson not to worry about a letdown. Then Carroll took the floor and made sure there wasn't one. Missouri never trailed in the game.

"Hats off to our guys, they came in with a focus on not looking past," Anderson said. "That's hard to do with young guys."

Offensively, the Tigers continually moved the ball to the open man. Missouri had 28 assists on 35 made baskets.

"That is unbelievable. That's sharing the basketball," Anderson said.

It helped that the Tigers shot well from the perimeter.

Missouri's three freshman guards have struggled shooting on the road this season, but English found his touch early and often against the Cyclones.

English scored 11 total points in the Tigers first four conference road games. He scored 13 in the first half Saturday, finishing with 16 on six-for-eight shooting.

"I was actually shooting great on the road, the balls just weren't going in the basket. Today, they just luckily fell in the hole for me," English said. "I never feel like I'm shooting bad. I work too hard not to have confidence."

The last time Missouri won 20 games in a season was 2002-2003. It took that team until the Big 12 tournament to earn its 20th win.

Saturday's victory gave Anderson his first 20-win season at Missouri. He won 20 games in all four of his seasons at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

English didn't know it was the team's 20th win until a fan behind the bench screamed it out after the game. He said he's excited, but his focus is already on making Monday's game win No. 21.


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