It’s not one that is consistently dependable. But every Lyons jumper isn’t a waste of a Missouri possession either. When Lyons is making his jump shots, he’s even tougher for opposing big men to guard, players who usually aren’t as quick as he is.
But, as he showed against Oklahoma, he’s plenty difficult to stop when he just decides to penetrate.
Lyons scored 14 points on just six shots. At 6-foot-9 and with his skill level, Lyons is capable of taking advantage of players who lack quickness, such as Oklahoma center Longar.
Longar, or size, like the numerous players the Sooners played in place of Longar when he had foul trouble in the second half.
“I though Leo played a tremendous game,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “He was probably one of those guys they had to match up with. He was a tough matchup.”
Lyons was an especially tough match-up for Longar. Longar, who is 6-foot-11, is a more traditional post player than Lyons. And when he had to leave the area near the basket to guard Lyons, Longar was vulnerable.
“I was sitting back for a while but it was about time to attack as soon as I get out there because I think it will help the team a lot,” Lyons said.
When Longar was called for his second foul 14 seconds into the second half, Anderson told Lyons to try to get him into foul trouble. And he
did, with Longar eventually fouling out with 1:46 remaining in the game.
“It affected us,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “I mean, he’s our leading scorer, our leading rebounder. It did affect us, but I think some other guys stepped up and did some good things for us.”
But none of those “other guys” were able to recreate some of the things Longar does.
Getting Longar out affected the game in some ways that were obvious, and some that weren’t. With Longar, Capel said his team was small anyways. Without him, the Sooners were forced to use 6-foot-7 forward Taylor Griffin near the basket.
And, it’s also possible Longar would have been able to convert one of the three offensive rebounds Oklahoma had in one possession with under 45 seconds left. Instead, Griffin missed the front end of a one-and-one and Michael Neal was unable to make two jump shots. If Oklahoma had made a basket, it would have at least tied the game.
Instead, the Sooners didn’t get as close as two points until four seconds were left in the game.
Beyond his ability to take Longar out of the game, Lyons showed some of the hustle and energy some have accused him of lacking in the past.
Always known as one of Missouri’s most talented players, the questions about Lyons have been about his level of intensity and toughness.
Earlier in the season, Anderson said he inherited a lazy player, one who needed a little bit of an extra coaching.
At least for one night, it seemed like Lyons was the intense, if not angry, player Missouri fans want him to be.
With 7:46 left in the second half, he and Oklahoma guard Michael Neal both chased a loose ball into the Sooner back court. Instead of allowing Neal to grab the ball uncontested, Lyons dove onto Norm Stewart Court for the basketball. Although Oklahoma eventually picked up the ball and made a 3-pointer on the possession, it was the kind of effort Anderson has been trying to get from Lyons all season.
“Only knock I got on Leo, he’s got to get a little faster,” Anderson said. “He should have got that loose ball. When they get it, and they go down and shoot a three, it’s a three-point play.
“He ran as fast as he could, I guess. But again, that’s the effort.
That’s the effort he brings.”