Despite Losing Discipline in 2nd Half, Tigers Hang On Against Illinois


After jumping out to another double digit lead against Illinois at the Scottrade Center Thursday night, it appeared as though the Tigers would roll to an easy victory; However, Mizzou was forced to overcome sloppy ball handling and poor shot selection before pulling out a 78-74 victory over the Illini.

In the first half, the Tigers looked like they were on their way to blowing out the Illini in similar fashion to earlier neutral court matchups against California and Notre Dame. Illinois was unable to establish seven foot big man Meyers Leonard against a small Mizzou lineup, and simply looked too slow to handle the pace of the Tigers. An emphatic slam by Matt Pressey gave the Tigers a 41-30 lead going into the break, and every indication pointed towards a rout taking place in the second half.

With 13:03 remaining in the second half, the Tigers were coasting with a 58-45 lead when the sloppy play began. For the next 10 minutes, it seemed as though four of the Tigers on the floor stood and watched sophomore point guard Phil Pressey force wild shots and ignore weapons like Marcus Denmon and Kim English. In fact, the two senior guards never really got into the flow of the offense, as the two combined for 16 points on just 5 of 16 shooting. As a result of the offensive ineptitude from the Tigers, the team was unable to put away an inferior yet solid Illinois squad, and the game was tied at 67 with just over three minutes to play.

But the Tigers were able to buckle down defensively, and with a couple of fortunate bounces to center Ricardo Ratliffe, took the lead for good with just over a minute to play. In their first close game of the season, it was a big relief for Tiger fans to see their team avoid a complete collapse.

Coach Frank Haith learned a lot about his squad’s ability to handle adversity tonight, and it was much better for the Tigers to experience a game like this sooner rather than later, as they will need to maintain their composure when visiting hostile Big 12 road environments. Mizzou has been at their best when spreading the ball around unselfishly, but got caught letting Pressey dictate much of the offensive action for a large part of the second half. Without a doubt, the team will not be satisfied with their performance, and will need to be prepared for a trip to the east coast when they play their first true road game of the season at Old Dominion next Friday.