Under Frank Haith, Missouri men's basketball team still plays fast

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 | 10:27 p.m. CDT
Missouri junior guard Michael Dixon drives the ball to the net against Truman State University guard Isaac Gardner on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena.

It's not the fastest 40 minutes of basketball anymore. But it's pretty close.

Any Missouri basketball fans that came on Wednesday to Mizzou Arena who were worried that their Tigers might start playing at a slow pace went home worry-free.

Missouri ran frantically up and down the court in a 87-48 win over Truman State.

In five seasons under former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, fans became accustomed to seeing a fast-paced game with the Tigers playing full-court pressure defense and trying to score in the first 10 seconds of each possession.

When Anderson left for Arkansas, he took the fastest 40-minutes moniker with him, and Frank Haith was brought in to replace him. Haith said the team would play at a slower pace.

But in Haith's first exhibition game in front of a home crowd, the Tigers didn't show many signs of slowing down. The Tigers still pushed the ball up the court on fast breaks and had the ball past half court in the first few seconds of every possession.

The only noticeable difference was that they didn't use a full-court press, instead starting most defensive possessions with all five players behind the half-court line. The defense still played fast, though, with Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon getting in the face of ball handlers and forcing long jump shots. 

"Coach allows us the freedom offensively to play up and down," senior guard Marcus Denmon said. "On the defensive end, we will pressure the ball sometimes full court. Right now we're adapting to his style of play."

Denmon was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 23 points. He made seven 3-pointers.

Haith hasn't gone too far away from Anderson's system because the core of his team has a lot of experience with it. Of the nine players that played against Truman State, six were seniors.

Just one, Kadeem Green, is a freshman, but Green is a redshirt who practiced in Anderson's system last season.

"We're comfortable playing in that way," Haith said. "But as we move on into our schedule with some of the other teams we play, we've got to be able to run an offense. That's what I was stressing with these guys in the second half. I really wanted us to really have some good possessions where we could really learn how to play half-court offense."

The Tigers did slow their pace in the second half, taking 10 fewer shots than they did in the first half and shooting at a higher percentage. 

They will play another exhibition game Monday against Central Missouri.

Although they haven't completely adopted Haith's system yet, Denmon has no doubts that they will.

 "We've been working since the spring," Denmon said. "We've been putting the time in."

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