That was the Marshall Brown that Missouri fans had waited to see.
In the first couple weeks of the season, an injured ankle hindered Brown. By the time the ankle healed, Brown’s rhythm was disrupted. Coach Mike Anderson limited his minutes when Brown failed to play at the right speed. Sometimes, he was too aggressive. Other times too passive. But against Coppin State, Brown found his balance.
“He let the game come to him,” Anderson said of Brown after the Tigers (7-0) defeated Coppin State 98-77. “I thought he was a slasher, running and getting alley-oops and loose balls. Attacking the baseline and getting to the free-throw line. He brought that energy from that side.
“He gave us that guy who could slash.”
That ability to penetrate is what had many thinking that Brown would be a perfect fit for Anderson’s system. But, coming into Monday’s game at Mizzou Arena, Brown at times looked lost on the floor. He was scoring 7.7 points per game, almost two fewer than last season. He was also losing playing time to teammates that, while lacking the potential for explosive plays that Brown has, were playing steadier basketball. On Monday, though, Brown was one of Missouri’s most consistent players. Brown scored a season-high 21 points and had eight rebounds.
“I just tried to change it up and do something different,” Brown said. “I wasn’t pleased with my play earlier on. I just want to come out here and have high energy to run the floor. When I run the floor good things happen.”
Unlike earlier in this season, good things happened for Missouri when Brown took long distance shots. Despite a jump shot that looks to have good form, Brown had made only three of 12 3-point shots. Against Coppin State (1-5), Brown’s 3-point shot looked the best it has all season, making three-of-five.
“It was great watching him get into his groove tonight,” Kalen Grimes said. “He’s a 6-7 swingman. He can shoot the ball, he can put in on the floor. He’s just an athlete. When he’s playing to his potential, he’s a killer. He’s great.”
Great could also have been used to describe Stefhon Hannah. Earlier in the day, Hannah was named Big 12 Conference co-Newcomer of the Week. Later in the day, Hannah took a step toward winning the honor again next week. His 13 assists tied a school record set by Melvin Booker in 1993. Eventually, Hannah said, that record will fall.
“I’m trying to set it before Jason (Horton) does,” Hannah said. “It doesn’t matter. Me or him could set it.”
If they do indeed break Booker’s record, they will need the help of finishers like Brown. And 13 assists, Hannah said, isn’t even that many.
“Not when you got so many finishers,” Hannah said. “It should be more than that.”
Brown, though, did his part. Once again, Brown and Hannah connected many times for easy baskets. There was one connection, though, that looked a little too easy.
After Missouri forced a turnover in the front court, with 35 seconds left in the first half, Hannah looked content to dribble the clock down and hold the ball for a final shot. Coppin State seemed to expect Hannah to wait until the final seconds to drive the lane. Instead, Hannah saw Brown sneak behind a sleeping CSU defense and flipped him a pass. Brown didn’t dunk it, but softly laid it in.
“Sometimes, you play to your strengths. I think that’s the key to any good basketball player,” Anderson said. “You do the things you do well. And God has gifted him (Brown) with some athletic ability.”