COLUMBIA — Missouri men's basketball player Phil Pressey couldn’t stop smiling.
In the Tigers 75-59 victory over Kansas State on Monday at Mizzou Arena, Pressey used his speed to embarrass the Wildcats.
Five minutes into the game, Kansas State gave its star player, guard Jacob Pullen, some rest, and replaced him with freshman Will Spradling. That was when Pressey made his move.
Pressey was much faster than Spradling and he took full advantage of the mismatch. Pressey, a freshman guard, would go right, go left, or sometimes, even dribble the ball right past Kansas State's defenders. Whatever move Pressey decided to make, the Wildcats never had an answer.
“He was harassing them, he was like a little gnat out there,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “Even to the point where one guy just pushed him over. When you get him into open court, he can do lots of things. It seemed like he was always nagging their guards and putting pressure on them.”
When Spradling had the ball, Pressey continued to use his speed to his advantage. With Missouri holding a 16-13 lead, Spradling was trying to drive to Missouri’s end of the court but had difficulty dealing with Pressey's defense. Standing at the halfcourt line, Pressey swiped at the ball and knocked it loose. The ball went off Spradling’s feet before rolling out of bounds. Pressey, who had hoped to turn the play into a fast break, gave a fist pump with his right hand while jogging down the court since the ball was going back to Missouri.
"His confidence, swagger and basketball IQ is definitely beyond his freshman class," Missouri junior guard Kim English said. "I was joking with him and calling him Reggie Miller after last game. He’s had a really impressive last two games, and I’m excited to see how much farther he can go."
After it was obvious that Pressey's speed was too much of a mismatch for Spradling, Kansas State coach Frank Martin put Pullen back into the game. But just minutes later, Pressey got past Pullen for another basket.
Standing just outside the 3-point line, Pullen had his hand in Pressey’s face. Pressey swung the ball behind his body and then dribbled to the right of Pullen, who could only turn his head as he watched Pressey run past him for an easy layup to give Missouri a 39-28 lead.
Afterward, Pressey knew he had just made a big play on the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, and jumped up and down in celebration.
“He completely outplayed us,” Martin said. “But he’s a good player. It’s obvious that he had a big game against (Texas) A&M, and he followed that up with another big game here tonight.”
Pressey finished the game with 13 points, just behind Marcus Denmon, who led Missouri with 14 points.
The Tigers (16-3, 2-2 Big 12) jumped two places in Monday's polls to No. 13 despite losing in overtime at Texas A&M on Saturday
Pullen had 16 points while Jordan Herniquez-Roberts added 14 for Kansas State (13-6, 1-3), which has dropped three of its past four and fell out of the Top 25.