Marcus Denmon gave the Missouri men's basketball team the cushion it needed.
The junior guard led the Tigers with 19 points Thursday in their 83-80 victory at Oregon. Thirteen of those points came in the first half.
With seven minutes left, Oregon (4-3) had closed the Missouri lead to seven points, which was, at the time, the closest the Ducks had been since the beginning of the game. With No. 9 Missouri (6-1) needing something to go its way, Denmon took the ball down the court, and standing 25 feet from the basket, made a 3-point shot.
“We came out in the second half kind of comfortable,” Denmon said in a phone interview. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. But credit to Oregon, they made some really tough shots. As one of the leaders on this team, I knew I had to make a shot to quiet the crowd. We came out with the W, and that’s the most important thing.”
Missouri led 44-24 at halftime, but Oregon came back in the second half with several runs to come within 82-80 in the final seconds. But junior guard Matt Pressey made a free throw, and Oregon’s final desperation shot to send the game to overtime fell short.
“We got to go hard (the whole game),” Missouri men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson said in a postgame interview. “We had a great first half, but we came out flat in the second half. The crowd gets into it, the refs get into it, and before you know it, you’re fighting an uphill battle.”
Missouri was outscored 39-56 in the second half.
A major part of Oregon’s comeback could be credited to the Ducks switching up their defense in the second half. Oregon put four players in a zone defense and kept the fifth on Denmon in an attempt to shut him down. This forced Missouri to take outside shots, while essentially taking away the Tigers' leading scorer.
“They boxed me in for the last 8 minutes,” Denmon said. “But I had faith that my teammates would win that 4-on-4 matchup, so I just did other things such as rebound and get some assists.”
Denmon finished with eight rebounds and three assists. He was also the team’s leading scorer with 27 points in Missouri’s loss to Georgetown on Tuesday night.
“He’s playing with poise and our guys are understanding when he’s hot, you get it (the ball) to him,” Anderson said.
Missouri’s victory over Oregon marked one victory in the Big 12’s 3-0 record over the Pac 10 on Thursday night in the Big 12-Pac 10 Hardwood Series. Baylor defeated Arizona State 68-54, while Kansas escaped an upset by defeating UCLA 77-76.