COLUMBIA — It’s always a little easier without the big man.
Purdue comes to Mizzou Arena on Saturday with perhaps the most balanced team Missouri has faced this season. Quite a different look than the team that beat the Tigers 79-62 in West Lafayette, Ind., last season.
This season, the Boilermakers (5-1) have eight players averaging more than 18 minutes, six players averaging more than 3.6 rebounds, and seven players averaging more than 7.8 points per game.
Last season, the nation’s third leading scorer and fourth leading rebounder, Carl Landry, had 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Tigers. After the season, he was taken 31st in the NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics, then traded to the Houston Rockets.
“He was, no question about it, he was an NBA player. That’s where he is now,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “But I’m sure he (coach Matt Painter) has those guys playing well.”
The Boilermakers are led by two freshmen, 6-foot-8-inch wing Scott Martin and 6-foot-3-inch guard E’Twaun Moore, but there is no dominant player like Landry. Martin averages about 13 and Moore 11 points per game, and several players average around four rebounds, but nobody compares to Landry’s 18.9 points and 7.3 rebounds last year.
That should make it easier for the Tigers, guard Keon Lawrence said. Missouri’s style of play relies on strong guard rebounding, which can be negated by a dominant post player.
“I think it’s harder to play against a big guy than is getting 10 or more rebounds or whatever,” Lawrence said. “You just stay out there. It’s just hard to tip it over him as much as I could tip it over guards.”
Lawrence, who is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, is Missouri’s second leading rebounder with 5.2 per game. He could be even more vital on Saturday as forward DeMarre Carroll, Missouri’s top rebounder with 6.9 per game, is day-to-day and will be a game-time decision, Anderson said on Wednesday.
If he doesn’t play, Missouri is going to need a lot of help.
“A rebound to me is all about effort,” Anderson said. “So what does that mean? We’ve got to have double effort from a lot more guys.”
Some of those guys are forwards Leo Lyons and Darryl Butterfield. Lyons, a starter, averages four rebounds per game while Butterfield, the first big man off the bench, only averages 1.9.
Lyons said he thinks Carroll will be back in time for the game, but regardless, he knows strong rebounding is the key to the fast break points Missouri thrives on.
“When we are rebounding all together it helps us because we’ve got a lot of people who can handle the ball, so our fast breaks get started and we get on the offense real quick,” Lyons said. “But when we’re not it shows and we lose games.”