Missouri men's basketball team improves in AP poll

Monday, November 28, 2011 | 10:24 p.m. CST; updated 10:36 p.m. CST, Monday, November 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Missouri men's basketball team made the program's largest jump in the Associated Press poll this week, moving eight spots to No. 13 from No. 21. 

During four different seasons, the Tigers have moved up six spots in the AP poll in one week. Two of those came early in the season, when the poll is most susceptible to fluctuation.

With an 88-59 win against Binghamton on Sunday, the Tigers are 6-0 for the first time since 2006, which was former coach Mike Anderson's first season at Missouri. Anderson's 2006 team won its first nine games.

While Missouri is climbing the AP ladder early in the season, it is also leading the Big 12 Conference in many offensive categories. Averaging 85.7 total points a game, the Tigers are beating their opponents by an average of 26.8 points, the largest scoring margin in the league. 

Missouri is first in the league in field goal percentage both as a team and individually. The Tigers have made 52 percent of their shots, with senior Ricardo Ratliffe shooting 70.2 percent.  The starting forward shot 100 percent, 7-for-7, against Binghamton.

"Mostly hook shots and layups. Those are shots I'm supposed to make," Ratliffe said. "My coaches have got me posting lower, and the guards are doing a good job of being patient."

Senior Kim English leads the Big 12 in both 3-point percentage, at .625, and 3-pointers made, averaging 4.2 per game. With a career-high 29 points against Binghamton and a season average of 18.2 points per game, English is the third leading scorer in the Big 12 after senior teammate Marcus Denmon, who is second at 18.5 points per game. 

English, who averaged only 10 points per game last season, attributes his improvement to footwork and practice, shooting thousands of shots outside of practice every week.

"I worked with our coaches a lot on footwork. I'm backing into shots," English said. "Shot are coming in the flow of the offense, not in me finding them."

With his speed, sophomore Phil Pressey leads the league in steals, averaging three per game with 18 total. His defense almost looks choreographed at times and his steal in the first half of Sunday's game against Binghamton could be worthy of an Academy Award for dramatic steals.

Nearly charging into Missouri head coach Frank Haith and assistant coach Ernie Nestor on the Tigers' sideline, Pressey caught the ball as he flew out of bounds. A two-handed, no-look, over-the-shoulder pass went straight to Ratliffe, who dunked it for two points. 

"We want him to be a threat offensively," Haith said of Pressey. "He can still impact the game at a high, high level and not take a shot, and he proved that" Sunday night.

Junior Michael Dixon tops the Big 12 in free throw percentage, .963, shooting 26 for 27. He has raised his career-average to 85.3 percent so far this season, the current all-time high at Missouri.

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