KANSAS CITY — The Missouri men's basketball team wasn’t the home team in the championship game of the CBE Classic on Tuesday night against No. 18 California, but you wouldn’t know it from noise level inside Kansas City's Sprint Center.
From the moment the arena went almost completely black and No. 21 Missouri’s starting lineup was announced, it was like sitting in a bowl of sound. The cheering reached a peak as senior guard Marcus Denmon was announced as the final player in the Tigers’ starting lineup.
He was a key part of Missouri’s 92-53 victory over the Bears to clinch the tournament title.
Just a little more than three minutes into the first half, Denmon was already giving the crowd a reason to get rowdy as he dunked a pass from senior guard Kim English to put the Tigers ahead 6-4, Missouri's first lead of the game.
California’s senior guard Jorge Gutierrez responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but English was quick to chalk up a 3-point in response, putting the Tigers up 9-7.
The deep chant of “Steeeeeeeeve” filled the air as senior center Steve Moore swatted down a shot attempt from California’s Justin Cobbs. Not long after, Moore drew a foul, and California’s team fouls reached eight to Missouri’s four.
Foul trouble continued for both teams throughout the first half as California racked up 10 and Missouri eight.
Sophomore guard Phil Pressey added to Missouri’s six points off fast breaks in the first half as he stole the ball then sprinted down the court near the seven-minute mark. After a sidelong glance to see if any teammates were open, he leaped upward and completed a layup as he flew through the air.
Denmon kicked off the scoring at the start of the second half, popping in a 3-pointer and not long after laying in a basket from the lane, putting the Tigers up 50-30.
After a nearly four-minute dry spell from the Tigers, Denmon’s two free throws put Missouri on the scoreboard again. At the nine-minute mark, Denmon sailed in a jumper from behind the arc on an assist from Moore, putting Missouri up 69-41.
Though California outrebounded Missouri 34-27, it was Missouri’s shooting that determined the outcome. The Tigers shot 59 percent while the Golden Bears shot 30 percent.
Six Tigers scored in the double digits, English leading with 19 points. Denmon added 18 points, senior guard Matt Pressey had 13, junior guard Michael Dixon had 11, and senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe and Moore added 10 points each.
Two 3-point shots from Jarrett Sutton within the last minute of the game sent the crowd into frenzy as it went into celebration mode before the clock signaled the end of the game.
English was named to the all-tournament team as was Denmon, who was named the tournament MVP.