COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s basketball team imposed its will on the Coppin State Eagles on its way to a 72-38 victory Thursday night at Mizzou Arena.
There were several spectacular plays. From the no-look pass that guard Stefhon Hannah threw to forward DeMarre Carroll that led to a Carroll dunk, to the behind-the-back pass that Hannah dished to Carroll for an easy layup. It seemed that on just about every other possession there was some type of play that will be considered for the Tigers’ end of the season highlight video.
Once the Tigers sunk their first basket, the game was never really in doubt. It took Coppin State almost six minutes to score its first points, which came on a jump shot in the lane by forward Robert Pressey.
Missouri’s pressure defense is what keyed the victory. Coppin State had 22 turnovers, which led to 29 Tigers points.
Coach Mike Anderson mixed up the starting lineup against the Eagles. Carroll and Hannah did not start for the first time this season. Instead, guard J.T. Tiller and forward Marshall Brown got their first chance to start a game this year. While Brown had started 59 games in his career before Thursday night, Tiller was making his first collegiate start.
“Coach always says he has eight or nine starters, it’s not really who starts the game, it’s who finishes,” Tiller said. “It was cool.”
Tiller said he didn’t know he was starting until about three minutes before the game when Anderson wrote the starting lineup on the board in the Tigers’ locker room.
As for the reason behind altering the starting lineup, Anderson said he felt Carroll and Hannah’s play had been slipping recently and that they needed a wake-up call.
“I just think they can play better,” Anderson said of Missouri’s two leading scorers. “It’s a coaches decision.”
Even though he didn’t start the game, Carroll still led the Tigers in points with 19. He was able to bounce back from a 2-10 shooting performance against Illinois to make seven of his eight shots against the Eagles.
Guard Keon Lawrence provided another change to the starting lineup. He returned to a starting spot for the first time since Missouri lost at Arkansas on Nov. 28. In the five games since then, senior Jason Horton had occupied a starting guard position instead of Lawrence.
Horton did not even dress for the game because of a back injury. The prognosis for his return is cloudy at best.
“With backs, you never know how they are going to act,” Anderson said. “We’ll see. It’s probably a day-to-day situation with him.”
Forward Leo Lyons scored 11 points to reach double figures for the sixth consecutive game. He was inconsistent in the early part of the season, but since Missouri’s game against California he has been one of the team’s top players.
“It’s just staying aggressive,” Lyons said. “I think just by me playing hard I can get ten points easy.”
The 38 points that Coppin State scored were the least amount of points Missouri has allowed this year. The previous low came when the Tigers gave up 44 to McNeese State on Dec. 15.