KANSAS CITY — Missouri finally found some competition. Sort of.
The No. 21 Tigers 87-58 victory Monday night in the CBE Classic semifinals at the Sprint Center wasn't against an little-known team whose acronym causes Missouri fans to ask "Who?"
It was Notre Dame, hot off of last year's 27-7 season. Although, this season, the Fighting Irish (4-1) are without the graduated Ben Hansbrough, the 2011 Big East Player of the Year, the Tigers (4-0) are also working to regroup after the loss of standout forward Laurence Bowers to a knee injury.
On Monday night, Missouri looked as if it had done a much better job of making adjustments.
Missouri forward Ricardo Ratliffe, who is being leaned on in Bowers absence, helped the Tigers get off to a quick start. The senior didn't miss a shot in scoring eight points in the first four minutes. He finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Missouri claimed a 52-37 advantage at halftime.
Senior Marcus Denmon scored 26 and sophomore Phil Pressey had 17 to lead the Tigers. Senior Kim English scored 10 points, highlighted by a 24-foot 3-pointer in the second half, giving the Tigers four players in double figures for the fourth game in a row.
"The coaches preach every day to be selfless," Pressey said. "We make sure everybody gets their shots off. It worked out today."
Fifth-year senior Tim Abromaitis made his debut this season for Notre Dame after a four-game NCAA suspension for playing in two exhibition games when he redshirted his sophomore year. Abromitis led the Fighting Irish with 22 points and eight rebounds, followed by senior Scott Martin with 12 points.
Abromaitis proved to be Notre Dame's greatest threat.
"He got loose, and he had a couple plays in the first half where he just bully dribbled us and scored over the top of us," coach Frank Haith said. "We have to understand this: Don't play D when he catches the ball. Let's play D before he catches the ball. I thought we did a much better job on that in the second half."
Denmon and Abromiatis, who was a preseason All-Big East first-team pick this year, are former Team USA teammates and played together at the World University Games last summer.
If Abromaitis had stronger players surrounding him, this might have been a different story. But Missouri capitalized on the holes in Notre Dame's defense, making use of Denmon's and Pressey's speed.
"Going into this game knowing we knew we were a lot smaller than them, but I guess it works to our advantage," Pressey said. "Being smaller means you're quicker."
Denmon, who grew up in Kansas City, spent time after the game visiting his own personal fan section, which he estimated contained about 30 people. Assistant coach Tony Hanson gathered the Tigers players, directing them to the bus and Denmon was the last to follow.
"It's always good to be able to play in front of your home fans," Denmon said. "But the most important thing is getting the win, and that's what we went out there and did."
The Tigers play for the CBE championship against No. 20 California at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Sprint Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
California was a 70-46 winner over Georgia in Monday's late semifinal.