COLUMBIA — During a media timeout with 11:25 left to play in the first half, Kim English stood toward the edge of the huddle, a white Gatorade towel hanging over his shoulder. The players fresh off the court grabbed seats on the bench to rest, zipping up their warm-up jackets. English’s jacket had been on since the start of the game.
English did not start in the No. 11 Missouri men’s basketball team’s 91-63 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday. It was the second-straight game, English saw limited minutes.
After going scoreless in only eight minutes in Missouri’s previous game, English sat the bench for the majority of the first half on Sunday. Although the reasoning for the English’s absence wasn’t clear, one thing was, Missouri’s leading scorer from last season was ready to play when he got onto the court.
“He’s always played hard, but today he took it to another level,” assistant coach Matt Zimmerman said. “He was all over the place. He was active. He was moving his hands. His arms were all over the place, and he was moving his feet. That feeds to the other guys. That energy spreads throughout the team.”
With 9:52 left in the first half, English made his first appearance. He came in with a new wave of five players that included four of the original starters. Fans in Mizzou Arena noticed, cheering the arrival of the junior guard.
English’s first contribution came on defense. Within a minute of checking in, English planted himself in front of a barreling Savalance Townsend, setting his feet and standing tall while Arkansas-Pine Bluff guard plowed into him. Townsend was whistled for an offensive foul.
Then English found his offense.
With 7:30 left to play in the first half, English came off of a screen, caught a pass from Marcus Denmon and nailed a deep 3-pointer for his first points of the game. The shot gave Missouri a 22-14 lead. Less than a minute later, he hit a midrange jump shot. Then he ran the floor for a fast-break layup.
After halftime, English was on the court much more for the Tigers. He played 14 minutes in the second half, after six in the first. When the shots stopped coming as easily, the junior guard found a way to get to the free-throw line, where he earned five of his 18 total points.
When he was not in the game, English's emotions and attitudes seemed to vary. During one timeout, his eyes strayed from the huddle to watch the Kiss Cam on the jumbo screen. Later, in the final two minutes of the game, he leapt up from his seat and hugged teammate Michael Dixon Jr. to celebrate Missouri’s final basket, a powerful John Underwood dunk.
For Missouri, coming off the bench does is not necessarily a negative. Coach Mike Anderson claims to have no starters, and often proves it by mixing up his starting five. More noticeable, however, was that English did not check into the game until more than halfway through the first half.
English had started Missouri's previous four games, but said he was not frustrated by the time spent on the bench at the beginning of Sunday's game.
“I don’t know, he (Anderson) just made a decision,” English said. “We’re 5-0. I don’t care how many minutes I played, if I start or not. If I start no more games, and we go on to win every other game I’ll be the happiest guy in the world.”
Despite playing less than normal, English's performance was his best of the season and caught the attention of Anderson.
“I thought today was one of the more complete games Kim English has played since he’s been here,” Anderson said. “Twenty minutes, and he seemed like he played a lot more. He was real efficient in all phases of the game.”