COLUMBIA — If Mike Anderson has stressed one thing since becoming the coach of the Missouri men's basketball team, it has been defense. And on the night he won his 100th game at Missouri, his team used its defense to cool one of the nation's top scorers.
While Missouri had no trouble finding its offense in its 97-61 victory over Northern Illinois on Monday, it was its defensive lockdown of the only player capable of giving Northern Illinois a chance that led to the blowout at Mizzou Arena.
"Our defense was really good. We were everywhere. They had one of the top scoring guys in the country with Silas," Anderson said.
Xavier Silas entered the game second in the nation in scoring. For most of the season, the 6-foot-5 guard has seemed to shoot at on oversized basket. He was averaging 26.2 points per game coming into Mizzou Arena. Only Kemba Walker of No. 4 Connecticut was scoring more, and barely (26.5 points per game).
“He’s the head of the team, and the coaches told us that,” Justin Safford said.
Silas was held to 2-for-12 shooting, scoring only eight points for the Huskies.
“A lot of guys took it to heart that he’s the head of the team, so you’ve just got to cut him off and let other people try to make plays and score. I think our guards did a really good job on him tonight," Safford said.
But it wasn’t just the guards who helped shut down Silas. Nearly every Missouri player got his chance.
In the first half, he was hounded by Safford and Marcus Denmon. Even Ricky Kreklow took a turn after checking into the game. No matter who it was, Missouri stuck to Silas. At one point, he tried to find his points in the paint, posting up and tossing a shot backward over his head. Steve Moore heartily rejected the shot into the stands.
When he took his seat on the bench for his first breather, Silas could only shake his head. Northern Illinois coach Ricardo Patton scribbled away on a dry erase board, trying to find a way to get back into the game. The answer never came.
Meanwhile, Anderson was calm and collected, enjoying the game from his end of the court. His team never trailed, and his chocolate brown suit jacket never even came off his shoulders.
Missouri scored at will, putting up 17 points before Northern Illinois could get two — which came from a Silas jump shot five minutes into the game.
The Tigers always seemed to be at least one step ahead of their opponent, stepping in front of passes to send them the other direction before the Huskies could react. Long rebounds turned into fast breaks, which then turned into highlight reel dunks.
Two of the jams came from Matt Pressey. The junior college transfer scored a career-high 18 points while displaying the leaping ability fans had only previously seen from his younger brother, Phil Pressey. Matt Pressey's 18 points were second only to Marcus Denmon's 24.
“He’s one of our more athletic guards, and he put it on display today,” Laurence Bowers said.
Missouri ended the first half up 57-17, its largest halftime lead ever over a Division I opponent.
To start the second half, Silas stole the ball from Bowers and dribbled it the full length of the court before pulling up for a close jumper — one of the few he took without a defender's hand planted squarely in front of his face. The shot hit rim and bounced away, symbolizing the kind of night it would continue to be for Northern Illinois.
Anderson, arms crossed over his chest, watched as his Tigers continued to roll, giving him the win that placed him at 100 quicker than any other Missouri basketball coach.