Tigers’ defense shows improvement

Monday, January 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:57 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Friday’s game against Oakland surely didn’t excite many Missouri men’s basketball fans, but the 74-58 victory at least showed the Tigers are learning.

Coach Quin Snyder has preached the importance of defense and rebounding to his team all season, but consistent efforts on those fronts have eluded the Tigers much of the season.

On Friday, though, the Tigers stifled their Mid-Continent Conference opponents, holding them to 38 percent shooting from the field and shutting down the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, Calvin Wooten, who had just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting.

Although Wooten played with a knee injury, the Tigers and guard Jason Horton didn’t give him any breaks.

“I thought the biggest impact he (Horton) had was guarding Wooten,” Snyder said. “And that’s something he’s been consistent on all year with his ball pressure.”

A play midway through the second half also displayed the defensive presence of center Kalen Grimes, who trailed Oakland’s Derick Nelson on a drive down the lane, swatting his shot out of bounds. In all, the Tigers blocked five shots, almost doubling their 2.7 average.

The Tigers didn’t falter when it came time to close out the Grizzlies, who came within four points with just under seven minutes to play. The Tigers continued to dominate the glass, outrebounding Oakland 39-29.

Snyder emphasized the importance of his team’s rebounding in the Tigers’ 16-4 finishing run against Oakland.

“One of our keys tonight that I think helped us to do that down the stretch was our rebounding, our guard rebounding,” Snyder said. “That was a big part of our game plan. We felt like we needed to get on the defensive glass.”

Although Missouri (6-4) has faced many smaller schools in the nonconference part of the schedule, the Tigers have struggled to control the glass.

Sam Houston State had five more rebounds than the Tigers in Missouri’s 80-77 home-opening loss and Davidson had 12 more rebounds in their 82-73 victory against the Tigers on Dec. 7.

The Tigers last tuneup before Big 12 Conference play starts against Oklahoma State on Saturday is tonight’s game with Louisiana Monroe (4-7) of the Southland Conference at 7 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.

Although the Tigers’ defense played well against Oakland, Snyder continued to emphasize the importance of continued improvement.

“We still got to get better defensively,” Snyder said. “We gotta keep working on that, especially off the ball. Guys having vision of the ball and being in the right position and making adjustments.”

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