McNeese State almost didn’t come back for the second half.
The Cowboys turned the ball over 16 times in route to a 44-18 halftime deficit and the Southland Conference team really had no chance to come back against the superior Missouri team.
As expected, when McNeese State finally returned to the court with about a minute to spare before the second half, the Missouri blowout continued. The Tigers won 81-44 in front of another small crowd at Mizzou Arena.
“I thought our guys came out with a defensive mindset,” coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought our guys, once we really got into the rhythm and flow of the game, our defense was the biggest indicator of what was going to take place in that game.”
The Tigers closed out the second half just as strong as the first. McNeese State scored 26 points and turned the ball over 10 more times in the second half.
That was a point of emphasis coming into this game.
“The main thing is trying to help us work on keeping the lead,” forward Leo Lyons said. “Cause sometimes we get a lead and we play a little lazy and we play kind of safe. We have to get away from that.”
Missouri has been a first-half team this season, scoring 464 points in the first halves of games this season and 372 in the second halves.
Against Purdue last week, Missouri took an eight-point lead into halftime but found itself down by 10 points midway through the second, though the Tigers eventually won 73-63.
Missouri showed a different mindset in the second half on Saturday.
“This is something we need to work on,” guard Matt Lawrence said. “We need to kind of go for the throat, like coach Anderson says.”
Still, it was the first half that was the most impressive for the Tigers. From the 17:16 minute mark until 4:19, Missouri outscored McNeese State 34-2.
Missouri was playing only its second game in the past two weeks on Saturday, but McNeese State and Monday’s opponent North Carolina A&T are a break from the big-conference schools Missouri played in five of its last six games.
On Saturday, some of Missouri’s reserves got to see some extra playing time. One was forward Marshall Brown. He has struggled to find his form in the first part of the season but came off the bench to score 11 points and grab three rebounds in 17 minutes.
Lawrence and point guard Stefhon Hannah led Missouri with 14 points each. Forwards DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons also scored in the double digits for Missouri.
CARROLL STILL HURTING: Carroll has been struggling with an ankle injury for the past two weeks and thinks he might have re-aggrivated it on Saturday.
“I came down on the rebound and I don’t know what happened,” Carroll said. “I lost my footing and I guess I tweaked it again.”
Missouri’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer said it takes a while for him to get the ankle loose when coming back into the game.
“When I come out, then I sit there for a minute and I go back in, I just feel like, I’m so stiff and can’t move,” Carroll said. “I just be out there sometimes and it takes me two minutes to really get in to it.”