COLUMBIA — Even after five games as a starter earlier this season, Keith Ramsey doesn't mind being a backup.
The junior-college transfer brought the sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena to its feet twice in Saturday's 70-47 win over Nebraska, once for a big block and again for a thunderous dunk at the other end. Ramsey's playing time may not be what it was at the beginning of Big 12 Conference play, but his importance to the team has become one of Missouri coach Mike Anderson's favorite topics in postgame press conferences.
"You can just see the game just kind of changes when he's out there," Anderson said. "I think we get a little faster with him out there, and certainly I think defensively we're a lot better."
Ramsey replaced Leo Lyons in the starting lineup for five games following Lyons' one-game suspension. In his first four games starting, Ramsey averaged nearly 20 minutes and nine points per game.
In Missouri's 88-72 loss at Kansas State, Ramsey started for the last time and finished with two points and two rebounds in 21 minutes. In the five games since then, his averages have fallen to 14.4 minutes and 2.4 points per game.
Part of the reason has been the resurgence of Leo Lyons, beginning with a 30-point performance in his first game back in the starting lineup against Baylor. Lyons and senior forward DeMarre Carroll are making a big impact on the scoreboard, and Ramsey knows his role during Missouri's five-game winning streak.
"It's OK," Ramsey said after he scored five points and had three blocks Saturday against Nebraska. "Leo, he's been showing senior leadership and I'm just coming off the bench, helping him out, getting his rest. He and DeMarre, they're our leading scorers, so me and Justin (Safford) and Laurence (Bowers), we just come in and give them rest and still keep the pace going in the game."
After wins at Georgia and home against Kansas, Anderson said if he had a game ball, he would have given it to Ramsey. The 6-foot-9 forward scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds in the two games, but that wasn't what caught his coach's attention.
"We have a stat sheet that we grade guys, and it has nothing to do with points," Anderson said. "It's all about field goal percentage, deflections, hustle plays, charges, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, you get the assist totals and we go through that and it's amazing how many guys are the leading scorers and not the guys that have all the stats that (the sports writers) put in."
Ramsey is always eager to make big plays to please the crowd and give the Tigers some energy. After the biggest of his three blocks Saturday — giving him a team-leading 25 for the season — Ramsey began flailing his arms and violently beating his chest.
"He's a fun guy to be around," freshman guard Kim English said. "That's him, right there."
At the beginning of the year, Ramsey was actually seeing fewer minutes than Safford, another option at forward on Missouri's bench. Since Big 12 play began, Ramsey has clearly become Anderson's first option to replace Carroll and Lyons inside.
"He puts pressure on a lot of big guys because he's always running and he's always moving around," Lyons said. "He's real active. For him coming off the bench to do the things that he does is always a plus for us."