For weeks now, Quin Snyder has talked about how the Tigers were going to be more family than team.
The MU men’s basketball coach could have been mistaken for a proud father after watching his “kids” trounce Central Missouri State.
The “kids” seemed to have no problem sharing.
Four players reached double digits in the 100-73 win Thursday against Central Missouri State, the team’s first opponent to play at Paige Sports Arena. Two of those players, Jimmy McKinney and Jeffrey Ferguson scored 10 or more off the bench. Ferguson scored 11 in 14 minutes of play.
Spreading the ball around is a sign of how much the Tigers trust each other this season, senior guard Jason Conley said.
“That’s just a team effort. That’s just having confidence in your teammates. You can’t go out there and take every single shot,” he said.
Conley isn’t just a believer in Snyder’s family philosophy but also a practitioner.
“There’s been times when I’ve had an open look but sometimes if I make one more pass that’s even a better look for our team,” Conley said.
Conley said he is impressed with how well the four Tiger freshmen have adopted the playing style.
“You know, there’s a lot of people here and some of (the freshman) haven’t played in front of that many people,” Conley said. “But the freshmen came out and showed that they’re vets almost.”
Snyder brought McKinney, the team captain, off the bench early in the first half.
McKinney said he didn’t mind missing all the fanfare during introductions and proved it by putting on his own show while on the court. He scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including going 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
“I’m fine with (coming off the bench),” McKinney said. “It doesn’t matter. We won the ball game, that’s all that matters. We played well.”
As team captain, McKinney shoulders much of the responsibility of making the team work together. “You just preach it every day in practice,” McKinney said. “All our guys, we’re unselfish. We’re not selfish at all, and I think that’s the turning point of this program and this team right now.”
The Tigers showed a turn around from last year with 11 of 13 players scoring and winning the assist-to-turnover battle 25 to 15.
Although Missouri was not as dominant on the boards, the new offense allowed for more open shots. The Tigers hit 55 percent from the field and more than 35 percent from behind the arc.
Snyder said one of the most impressive displays of teamwork came at the end of the game by Brian Dailey. Dailey came off of the bench for the first time with two minutes left, then drove in and instead of trying to get points, kicked the ball out to Ferguson for the assist.
“That says a lot about how important it is for our guys to be a team,” Snyder said.