COLUMBIA – It was almost as if Marcus Denmon had choreographed it.
After seeing Oklahoma’s Tyler Neal mishandle the ball slightly, the senior guard took a chance to make the steal.
“I just knew that nobody was in front of him,” Denmon said.
Denmon nabbed the ball and sped down the court in one fluid motion. With Neal in pursuit, Denmon leapt into the air and slammed the ball through the hoop with a little more than four minutes left in the first half of the No. 7 Missouri men's basketball team's Big 12 Conference opener against the Sooners.
Denmon’s steal and follow through gave the Tigers a comfortable 37-21 lead and elicited screams from the sold-out crowd of 15, 061 Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
Senior center Steve Moore also added a first-half steal. After he knocked the ball away from Oklahoma’s Carl Blair, he took a couple steps backward to steady himself then passed the ball, which found its way into the basket by way of a 3-pointer from Denmon.
With seven minutes remaining in the second half, senior guard Kim English fell to the floor stealing the ball from Oklahoma’s Andrew Fitzgerald. But English fought through a tangle of Oklahoma player’s arms and passed the ball off to teammate Phil Pressey. Junior guard Michael Dixon grabbed a pass from Pressey and completed a layup with ease.
Entering Tuesday night's contest, Missouri led the Big 12 and was fourth in the nation with an average of 10.1 steals per game. But in the Tigers' 87-49 victory, they had just four steals, English also claiming Missouri's fourth swipe.
Still, the Tigers only turned over the ball eight times, almost two fewer than their 9.8 average.
“You focus on taking the ball from the other team not letting them do what they want to do,” English said.
English said the Tigers will face some really good teams as conference play continues, but stealing the ball won’t be quite so easy.
“You’re not going to take the ball from really good teams,” English said.