COLUMBIA — During a time out with nine minutes left in a blowout victory against Colorado on Thursday, Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson quickly pulled aside guard Mike Dixon Jr.
Rather than allow his team to become complacent with a 20-point lead, Anderson took the opportunity to focus on one-on-one coaching. He quickly got in a defensive stance and began showing a frustrated Dixon what he was doing wrong on defense while the rest of the team waited in a huddle.
“Corey Higgins can get his arms around guys and attack, and Mike got caught up in that,” Tigers assistant coach Matt Zimmermann said. “And coach was probably getting frustrated with his defense. He was trying to use that time for Mike to do a little better job keeping guys in front of him.”
However, on a night when Missouri was having a near perfect game, winning 92-63 over Colorado at Mizzou Arena, Anderson still had plenty for them to work on. Missouri assistant coach Melvin Watkins said it is blowout games like this one that gives the Tigers (21-7, 9-4) a chance to improve on more specific aspects of their game.
“When you got a lead like that, you see the guys looking at the scoreboard and lose their focus,” Watkins said. “So we were sure to challenge them to stay focused and finish the game out on a positive note.”
Even in the locker room, Anderson found plenty to yell at his team about. Anderson said it wasn’t until he saw the stat sheet that he was forced to give his team some credit.
“Once I got the stat sheet, I had to kind of back up on what I said to my guys in the locker room,” Anderson said. “Because they really played well.”
Missouri spent the majority of the game enforcing its trademark pressure defense, never letting up even as the team extended its lead to more than 25 points. Even though Missouri held Colorado (12-15, 3-10) to just 63 points, Watkins said the team's main focus in the second half was preventing the easy layups it allowed earlier in the game.
“A couple times, in our zone, we got a little lackidasical there, and gave them some easy baskets,” Watkins said. “So there are some things we got to work on, but I think this group is up for the challenge.”
The blowout also allowed the Tigers' bench to get important playing time. Zimmermann said it is like a gift to be able to play the whole team during conference play. He said it will give the Tigers much needed experience as Missouri heads down the stretch.
“The more minutes your bench can get at this point at Feb. 24, it is very very crucial,” Zimmermann said. “Tonight we were able to get a couple guys some extra minutes and all that helps.”
The game proved especially important for Missouri center Steve Moore, who might need to play a bigger role because of an injury to forward Justin Safford. Five minutes into the game, Safford injured his left leg and had to be helped to the locker room. He returned to the bench, but didn’t play. Anderson said Safford will get an MRI on Wednesday night to determine the severity of the injury.
Missouri will play No. 6 Kansas State on Saturday night in Manhattan, Kan. Watkins said that even though the game against Colorado was a blowout, it gave Missouri new things to work on to be prepared for the Wildcats.
“There are some things we can learn from this,” Watkins said. “The biggest thing is the way we defended. We will be sure to talk about that.”