OKLAHOMA CITY — Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson knew his team needed its leaders to pave the way in this week's Big 12 Conference tournament.
Leo Lyons, DeMarre Carroll and Matt Lawrence got off to a quick start Thursday, as they each made their first shot in the first three minutes. Eventually, they led the Tigers to an easy 81-60 win over Texas Tech in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
"When those guys come out and they really play with a passion, they talk, they communicate, they're having fun out there," Anderson said. "I think it just makes it a lot easier for the younger guys to follow them."
The four veterans in the starting lineup — Lyons, Carroll, Lawrence and J.T. Tiller — were the Tigers' top four scorers at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
Carroll scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the first half to keep the Tigers in the game and eventually even the score before the teams went into the locker room. In the second half, Lyons and Lawrence combined for nine points in the first four minutes to help Missouri quickly open up a 11-point lead.
Defensively, junior J.T. Tiller led the way as one of eight Tigers with a steal. The 6-foot-4 guard came alive offensively in the second half, when he scored 11 of his 13 points.
"In the second half, we put our focus to the defensive end and it gave us easy offense," Carroll said. "We got easy layups, easy breakouts, and that's our main goal this whole tournament is just to focus on defense."
Missouri's newcomers combined for 20 points in 99 minutes, including eight from Zaire Taylor, the only one with previous Division I experience. Miguel Paul led all freshman with seven points while playing 20 minutes in place of Tiller and Taylor.
"They're like my big brothers," Paul said. "They just tell me to attack, basically, don't be passive, so I just listen to them for guidance."
The Tigers 12-man rotation helped them dominate the second half against the Red Raiders, who were fresh off of Wednesday's improbable second-half comeback against Texas A&M.
"I thought fatigue was a big factor," Anderson said. "I thought the wear-and-tear, and that's where our depth has been good to us, and I thought it was good to us tonight."
Lyons finished with only nine points, marking only the fourth time in 31 games the senior hasn't scored in double figures. Carroll has reached double figures in all but three of his 32 games. The two senior forwards have led the Tigers in scoring in 26 games this season, including the past nine.
With the win, the No. 14 Tigers improved to 26-6 on the season. All 14 Tigers saw action in their first Big 12 tournament win of their careers.