COLUMBIA — The Missouri men's basketball team got no Thanksgiving break after its third-place finish in the College Basketball Experience Classic last week.
Coach Mike Anderson told the team they had to practice all week, including on Thanksgiving Day.
“We went so hard in practice,” guard Keon Lawrence said. “We just practiced for a long time, just earning the turkey. And it paid off.”
Missouri opened up in dominating fashion on Sunday, defeating Western Illinois 91-52 at Mizzou Arena.
“Coach prepared us, he was all about no letdowns, not looking past games,” said Matt Lawrence, who scored nine points. “He practiced us hard, and he got us in here and we worked for our Thanksgiving food.”
The team has focused on defense all season, and it showed early. Western Illinois was held to just three field goals in the first 10 minutes, shooting 3-of-15 with seven turnovers. David Nurse scored Western Illinois’ first points four-and-a-half minutes in, after the Leathernecks had missed shots and turned the ball over five times. Missouri lead 50-17 going into halftime.
“In this game you saw us do some things, cutting off penetration, getting in lanes,” Anderson said. “We worked on a variety of defenses.”
The Tigers forced 21 turnovers while blocking seven shots and getting 10 steals on Sunday. 30 of Missouri’s 91 points were scored off of turnovers.
“Guards have got to have more pride in keeping other guards out of the lane,” said Keon Lawrence, who had two of the blocks and one steal. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Point guard Stefhon Hannah led Missouri with 21 points and forward DeMarre Carroll added 20. Carroll also added 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the year.
Keon Lawrence was the only other player to score in double digits, with 10 points, but many reserves saw significant playing time in the blowout. Mike Anderson Jr., who usually only plays when Missouri has the game wrapped up, entered the game with 1:31 left in the first half and played four minutes.
The announced crowd of 4,665 was the lowest of the season as many MU students had not returned from their Thanksgiving break and last night’s Missouri football game in Kansas City.
The Missouri players were in town that whole time, but they improved to 5-1, thus earning their turkey.
“Oh yeah, we earned it,” Keon Lawrence said. “That, the ham, all of it.”