The Missouri men’s basketball team nearly saw an end to its trip in paradise.
After leading by 15 points at halftime of Tuesday night's game against Wyoming in the second round of the Cancun Challenge in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, No. 11 Missouri let Wyoming climb back to within two points with less than five minutes left to play.
Missouri had gone nearly four minutes without making a basket, and the Tigers needed something to take away the momentum from Wyoming. Junior guard Marcus Denmon's 3-point basket accomplished the task for the Tigers, and after Wyoming missed a 3-point shot, junior forward Laurence Bowers tipped-in a rebound to give the Tigers a seven-point advantage.
“It was huge,” Bowers said by phone of Denmon’s 3-point shot. “You want a veteran guy taking that shot. That helped us get going.”
The 5-0 scoring run was much needed on a night when Missouri struggled in several areas. The Tigers had a season-high 20 turnovers and shot a season-low 40 percent from the field. In addition, Missouri’s big men, Bowers, as well as juniors Steve Moore and Ricardo Ratliffe, all got into foul trouble, so the Tigers had to rely heavily on Denmon and the rest of the guards.
That made room for one of Missouri’s few bright spots in the game. Sophomore guard Michael Dixon Jr. scored a career-high 17 points, and Missouri went on to defeat the Cowboys 72-62.
“At the end of the day, it went right, we got the win,” Bowers said. “I think we came out in the second half sloppy and not with that sense of urgency. Luckily, we were up by 15 at halftime.”
Missouri coach Mike Anderson agreed, and said he was not happy with his team’s play in the second half against Wyoming (2-3).
“Going into halftime, I thought we had some momentum, but coming out after halftime, I thought we were just flat,” Anderson said in his postgame radio interview. “It seems like we play a little more relaxed when we have a lead and we need to get that killer instinct.”
Missouri (3-0) will play against La Salle on Wednesday night in the Cancun Challenge championship game. La Salle (4-1), which defeated Providence 84-73 on Tuesday night, plays a 2-3 zone defense similar to Wyoming’s. Aaric Murray scored 20 points to lead four players in double figures in the Explorer's victory.
“We saw them a little bit during their game (against Providence)” Bowers said. “They have some trees in there. We just got to execute a little bit better against them.”