COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s basketball team isn’t known for having dominant big men, but they had two on Monday night.
Junior forwards DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons combined for 37 points and 17 rebounds in the Tigers’ 94-66 victory against North Carolina A&T at Mizzou Arena.
“We realized we had a size advantage,” Lyons said. “This is one of the only times we have a size advantage over teams so we had to utilize it.”
Carroll did the dirty work, scoring 22 points, including eight from free throws, and grabbing 12 rebounds, including seven offensive. Lyons created a highlight reel, scoring most of his points on slam dunks or alley oops, including a two-handed, behind the back alley-oop from Jason Horton in the second half.
“It’s hard to center in on one of us,” Lyons said. “If you center in on him, you leave me open and if you center in on me, you leave him open.”
The forwards kept Missouri (8-3) in the game during a “lethargic” first half, as coach Mike Anderson called it. They combined for 23 points and 11 rebounds while the team shot 33 percent from the field and struggled to pull away from North Carolina A&T (5-5).
“They did a good job of really getting to the basket and getting to the free-throw line, I think that was big,” said MU forward Marshall Brown, who scored a season-high 13 points. “They carried us in the first half and pretty much through the beginning part of the second half.”
The Tigers started the second half with a 15-2 run and dominated from there, leading by as much as 29 points with just more than two minutes left. Carroll and Lyons were given a break for much of the end of the second half.
Coming into the game, Carroll was averaging 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds and Lyons 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. The only player averaging more points is point guard Stefhon Hannah at 15.2.
A big man has only led Missouri in scoring five times in the past 20 years, with former Tiger Linas Kleiza being the most recent in 2004-05.
“I’ve got another agile big man who can basically do the same thing I can,” Carroll said. “So when one of us gets the rebound the other one can just go and we can push it.”
Carroll’s averages have dropped since injuring his ankle two weeks ago at Cal. He had season lows with seven points and one rebound in the next game, a win over Purdue. Both stats were below his average in Saturday’s win over McNeese State.
“It’s all right. It’s just one of those things you’ve got to deal with,” Carroll said. “You’ve got to deal with the pain. But, I’m a man, and you know, men get pain all the time so I’m good.”
Carroll said he is going to get extra treatment this week but doesn’t expect to miss any practice before Saturday’s game against Illinois.
“I’ll be all right,” Carroll said.
It didn’t look like walk-on Nick Berardini would play when the teams were tied with four minutes left in the first half, but after the Tigers’ second-half surge, he got in with 2:08 to play and nailed an open 3-pointer as time ran out.