COLUMBIA — The score was 41-10. Missouri had taken control of this game a long time ago. But no one likes to be left out.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Missouri guard Zaire Taylor stole the ball and sprinted down the court. Taylor took off and slammed down a dunk with his right hand.
After Taylor landed, he yelled out with his mouth wide open. A timeout was called, and Taylor emphatically marched to Missouri’s bench with his eyes to the floor.
“I got more bounce than people think, so I got to show it,” he said playfully.
Missouri (2-0) won 100-44 against Texas-Pan American (0-4) on Sunday afternoon at Mizzou Arena in the opening round of the South Padre Island Invitational. Taylor’s dunk was just a footnote on the highlight reel the Tigers put together against the over-matched Broncs.
Texas-Pan American actually jumped out to an 8-7 lead in the opening minutes, but Laurence Bowers provided the first of Missouri’s highlights to turn the momentum in the Tigers’ favor.
Miguel Paul lofted an alley-oop pass for Bowers, who streaked down the middle of the lane, jumped and threw down a dunk. The play gave the 5,796 fans at Mizzou Arena something to cheer about after five minutes of sloppy play.
Later in the half, Bowers cocked the ball behind his body and hammered home another crowd-raising dunk. Keith Ramsey also made an appearance on the highlight reel, slamming in an alley-oop from Michael Dixon Jr.
The Tigers had a couple of highlights on defense, too.
After blocking a shot, Steve Moore lumbered to the corner and threw all of his 264-pound frame belly-first onto the ground to save the ball. Moore was fouled a few seconds later and received a standing ovation for his hustle.
Later, 6-foot-3 inch Marcus Denmon sprung off the ground and swatted away a shot.
“We looked athletic out there today. I mean, we were fast,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “It was moving. The greatest thing about it is the timing. The ball was moving. It was crisp. It didn’t get stagnant.”
For a stretch of the first half, the Tigers moved the ball so efficiently and scored so easily that it looked like an all-star game. Except for the other team.
Ramsey, a 6-foot-9 inch forward, even tried to throw an alley-oop pass of his own, though he couldn’t connect with Justin Safford.
“Coach Anderson says it’s the funnest when you don’t gotta think the game, when you’re just out there doing what you’ve been doing as long as you’ve been playing basketball,” said freshman Michael Dixon Jr., who got his first collegiate start.
The game got so out of hand that reserve Jarrett Sutton, who normally gets into games with seconds and not minutes remaining, checked in with 5:14 to play. Sutton had enough time to launch four 3-pointers, and his second conversion capped Missouri’s scoring at 100.
“I think games like this help build team chemistry, it helps you trust one another,” Bowers said. “Playing like we did today, I think we played our brand of basketball.”
Tiller update: Senior guard J.T. Tiller did not play Sunday and is questionable for Missouri’s next game Tuesday against Chattanooga, Anderson said.
The senior guard suffered a bone contusion to his left foot in the Tigers’ season-opener Tuesday. Tiller got out of his walking cast Saturday and said his foot has made a lot of progress.
“Going from today versus last Wednesday, last Tuesday, I’ve made a great leap. My foot feels a lot better than it did last week,” Tiller said. “Just taking it day-by-day, I’ll most likely play in South Padre (on Friday).”
Anderson said when Tiller went into the cast after Tuesday’s game, his foot was so tender he couldn’t walk.
Tiller, whose treatment has consisted of a contrast between ice and time in the hot tub, will start making cuts and jogging tomorrow to feel out his ankle.
“I don’t want to rest, but at the same time looking at what happened today, there’s no worries,” Tiller said. “I didn’t mind sitting out at all. I’d rather sit out now than have to sit out watch a close game knowing that I could have did something to help the team out.”
Safford injury: Safford said X-rays showed he has a “small little spur” in the joint between his left ankle and foot.
Anderson sat Safford in the second half Sunday to give him rest.
Safford said he sprained his ankle over the summer and it healed, but he tweaked it a couple of times in practice. He had the X-rays taken after feeling irritation in the ankle.
Safford said he will take the injury day by day.