Freshman Leo Lyons came in as the blue-chip recruit who Tiger fans hoped would eventually fill the hole left by Linas Kleiza at power forward.
Lyons, a 6-foot-9 forward from Kansas City, Kan., has yet to crack the starting lineup or consistently produce for the Tigers, but his career-high 12-point effort in Missouri’s 73-44 win over Louisiana Monroe on Monday showed flashes of what had Snyder excited before the season.
Lyons, whose youth has shown with turnovers and poor shot selection at times this season, played with control and confidence on offense, scoring on a turnaround jumper off the glass in the first half and off a spin move and hook in the lane in the second half.
Center Kevin Young said Lyons has post moves that even someone who doesn’t understand basketball can appreciate and that his performance showed that capability.
“It was a great confidence boost for him, he got in there and did some good stuff,” Young said. “It was a chance for him to showcase his ability around the basket because we all know he’s good around the basket.”
Throughout the year Snyder has been outspoken about Lyons lack of effort in practice, but after the game Snyder was pleased to see his tough love start to pay some dividends.
“Leo was obviously our bright spot tonight,” Snyder said. “I’ve been pretty brutally honest with him the last week about the way I think he’s been playing, especially relative to what I think he’s capable of doing. Its good to see him respond the way he did.”
Lyons played like a player who was responding to a challenge, hustling on both ends of the floor getting a couple steals and a block on defense and was the Tigers’ second leading rebounder with seven.
One play exemplified Lyons renewed aggressiveness as he came crashing towards the basket from the baseline, tipping in a Thomas Gardner missed 3-pointer.
This play followed a previous tip-in dunk that was waved off for goaltending when Lyons prematurely put back a Kevin Young missed shot.
NEW WRINKLE: Fresh off a timeout, midway through the first half, coach Quin Snyder unveiled a four-guard lineup warranting a double-take.
Shooting guards Glen Dandridge, Matt Lawrence, and Thomas Gardner joined point guard Jason Horton and center Kalen Grimes.
The rotation was especially odd considering Dandridge, Grimes, and Lawrence don’t get many minutes and when Dandridge and Lawrence do play they usually don’t play together since they essentially share the same role as the 3-point shooter off the bench.
The rotation went into a trapping 2-1-2 zone that extended beyond the 3-point arc and caused a turnover on their first defensive possession.
Snyder said the rotation was mainly a result of the smaller lineup that Louisiana-Monroe was playing and that Lawrence and Dandridge are players who, with their versatility, are expected to play both forward positions at times.
Since both players are over 6 feet 6 inches tall, their height gives Snyder some flexibility.
“Their team was really small, so with a four-guard front it worked,” Dandridge said. “Me and Matt can open the floor on both wings and knock down shots.”