COLUMBIA — His arm bent perpendicular at the elbow and his hand clenched into a fist as the ball dropped through the net. With the swish of his third 3-pointer 10 minutes into the second half, Ricky Kreklow had scored his season high.
After Kreklow’s brief display of emotion, he got back on defense, but a timeout soon let the celebration continue. Kim English was waiting to pat him on top of the head. Then, before Kreklow could swing the sweat from the shaggy hair that went down to his eyebrows, Kadeem Green grabbed him and spun him his direction so the players could slap hands.
“He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
Playing true to his signature style "trying to be everywhere all at once," the freshman guard scored 11 points while never missing a shot. The Missouri men’s basketball team (11-1) blew out Central Arkansas 116-63 Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
Kreklow’s success was fitting for the style of game Missouri and Central Arkansas played. Central Arkansas coach Corliss Williamson let his Bears try to run with Missouri. Williamson, along with Anderson, learned the fast-pace style from Nolan Richardson during their time at Arkansas. The ball seemed to be in the air as much as it was on the court and the 7,294 fans in attendance gasped and cheered throughout the game despite the lopsided score.
Kreklow’s point totals didn't jump off the page, especially when compared to team leaders Marcus Denmon (21) and Laurence Bowers (20), but his impact on the game doesn’t necessarily have a place in the box score.
“I think he brings energy. He brings hustle. He’s got a great feel for the game,” Anderson said.
Besides Kreklow’s scoring, he also had four rebounds and three steals. He could often be found guarding bigger, thicker players in the post and sticking his hands into a thicket of players to come up with a deflection.
“He has no fear. He’s really gritty. He’s a tough kid,” Anderson said,
Kreklow’s fearless play was on display in the first half. On a fast break, he rocketed out of control toward Central Arkansas player Imad Qahwash. Qahwash did not quite have his feet set and a blocking foul was called. As Kreklow made his way to the free-throw line, he couldn’t help but smile at English.
“Kim wanted me to do a Euro Step,” Kreklow said.
The offensive move is one English has been persuading Kreklow to try in a game. With a defender in front, the player with the ball jabs left and then leaps back the opposite direction to finish with the off hand.
“I haven’t really worked on it, so I didn’t want to do it in a game. That’s why I was smiling,” Kreklow said.
Kreklow missed the free throw but made up for it soon after.
Less than 30 seconds later, a Ricardo Ratliffe rebound was sent ahead to English. English faked a pass to Denmon. Kreklow, running the court at the same furious pace, never slowed down and English delivered a chest pass to Kreklow under the basket for an open layup.
In the past two games, Kreklow has played more minutes than any other games this season, and the experience gained could be useful as Missouri’s depth is down.
Missouri announced Saturday that sophomore forward John Underwood left the team for personal reasons. Michael Dixon remains on the sideline as he serves his suspension for violating a team rule. Matt Pressey did not play Saturday, still dealing with the aftermath of an elbow-to-the-head he received against Oral Roberts. Kadeem Green has yet to play a game for Missouri and is still considering a medical redshirt as he continues to recover from a season-ending Achilles’ injury suffered his senior year in high school.
The shallow bench didn't phase the Tigers on Saturday, however. Missouri shot better than 66 percent and had seven players in double figures.