COLUMBIA – The crowd was already on its feet.
After being fouled by Texas guard J’Covan Brown with nine minutes left in the second half, Phil Pressey made two free throws, and the fans in attendance stood and cheered in support. But they didn’t know was what was about to come next.
Texas guard Julien Lewis didn’t either.
As Lewis dribbled the ball toward Texas’ basket, Pressey whooshed by, knocked the ball from Lewis’ hand and darted down the court. Even though he had two Texas players in front of him, he didn’t hesitate as he sprung upward toward the rim and dunked the ball with authority. Hanging from the rim, first with both hands, then swinging by his right arm for a moment, a grin spread across his face. And it stayed there as he jogged backwards to the opposite end of the court.
But it wasn’t just about the 18 points Pressey scored for the Tigers. In No. 9 Missouri’s 84-73 win over Texas, Pressey dished out 10 assists and had no turnovers.
"I would say it's as impressive as I've seen this year," Texas head coach Rick Barnes said of Pressey's performance. "I thought he was terrific."
Working in a tight space between Texas players under the basket, Pressey sent a quick pass to senior guard Marcus Denmon, who appeared to be going up for a shot. Instead of taking the shot, Denmon placed the ball in senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe's hands, and Ratliffe finished with a dunk.
"That makes it a lot easier on me with good guards like Marcus, Phil, Matt (Pressey). They all just find me in the right spot where they know I'm capable of scoring," Ratliffe said.
"I think we're all surprised when he misses a shot," Missouri head coach Frank Haith said of Ratliffe, who made 10 of his 12 shot attempts. Ratliffe led the Tigers with 21 points and added four rebounds.
Denmon had a team-high 11 rebounds, and scored 18 points for the Tigers. Twelve of Denmon’s 18 points came from four 3-pointers scored during the first half.
"I know that my teammates are going to find me for the shots, and I was fortunate enough to get a couple early, and I knocked them down," Denmon said.
Six minutes into the first half, Phil Pressey passed the ball to Denmon, who was wide open and sent in a 3-pointer that swished through the net.
"We do the same plays every day in practice," Pressey said. "We bring our practice to the game."
While Haith considers Denmon and Kim English the team's leaders, he sees Phil Pressey as the orchestrator of the Tigers' game.
"What he meant to us offensively, what he did out there was tremendous," Haith said. "I mean, he had the ball for 35 minutes, all the time, and to not have a turnover, to not have a miscue, is tremendous."