Missouri's Denmon worthy of Big 12 Player of the Year, Anderson says

Monday, February 28, 2011 | 11:03 p.m. CST; updated 12:11 a.m. CST, Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Missouri's Marcus Denmon drives the baseline against Nebraska's Andre Almeida. Denmon tied a career high with 27 points in Wednesday night's Tigers victory

COLUMBIA — Nebraska men's basketball coach Doc Sadler is no stranger to Marcus Denmon's scoring capabilities.

"He creates so many problems for you because he can really shoot the basketball," Sadler said in Monday's Big 12 media teleconference. "But he's really not just a one-dimensional player."

Denmon lit up the Cornhuskers when they lost to the Tigers in Columbia earlier this season. His 27-point performance tied his career best. But Sadler is also aware of Denmon's other strengths, the same strengths that Missouri coach Mike Anderson says he thinks qualify Denmon as a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate.

Sure, Denmon can score. As of Monday, the junior guard is seventh in the conference in points with 484 (16.7 points per conference game). 

But what sets Denmon apart is his accuracy. He is fifth in the Big 12 in shooting percentage (50.7 percent). Take into account that the four players ahead of him are forwards and centers, and that makes Denmon the most efficient guard in the conference.

When he escapes a defender and sets his feet firmly behind the 3-point line, the result is usually points added to the scoreboard. That is if he decides to take the shot.

Denmon seems to select his shots like a picky shopper searching for a perfectly-ripe piece of produce. If it's not there, he won't take it.

Missouri fans often let out audible groans when their leading scorer passes up a shot. They wouldn't complain if he pulled the trigger twice as much. Even Denmon himself has said he reigns in his offensive production at times.

After bolting to a 18-point first half in Missouri's win over Texas Tech in February, Denmon added only two more in the second half. He said he was trying to get his teammates more opportunities.

"I was trying to be a little more passive in the second half just because I felt like I could help get some other guys involved," Denmon said after the game. "A lot of teams around the country, they have just one key player, and if you can key on him, you can stop the team."

As much as Missouri's fans wish he would fire away, Anderson thinks Denmon's scoring is just where it needs to be.

"He's playing the game the right way," Anderson said.

In fact, Anderson said focusing on Denmon's shooting and scoring is an injustice to the other aspects of his game. To understand what Denmon brings to the table, you have to look at the big picture.

"Everybody gets so caught up in scoring," Anderson said. "What's the impact he's having on our basketball team? To me, that's what you look at when you are talking about someone that's a player of the year candidate. I think he's been playing at that level all year long."

Anderson pointed out that Denmon is second in the conference in steals (53), as well as a strong rebounder for his size.

On Tuesday, Sadler will likely be more focused on stopping Denmon's scoring than his steals or rebounds. After the last meeting between the two teams, he is probably hoping some of Denmon's scoring stays in Columbia. That wasn't the case when the Tigers came to town last season. Denmon scored 24 points after starting the game on the bench.

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fred faurot March 6, 2011 | 8:51 a.m.

You gotta be kidding.

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