Found January 03, 2012 on Fox Sports Midwest:
COLUMBIA, Mo. The start of Big 12 play was supposed to signal stiffer competition and more of a test for the largely unchallenged Missouri Tigers. Try telling that to the Oklahoma Sooners. Non-conference play, conference play - it doesn't appear to matter. As Oklahoma quickly found out, these undefeated Tigers are pretty darn impressive. Missouri continued their hot-shooting Tuesday in their Big 12 Conference opener, steamrolling past an improved Sooner team, 87-49, at Mizzou Arena. And the seventh-ranked Tigers made a little history in the process. The 38-point win was the their largest margin of victory in a Big 12 game regular season or tournament since the league was formed in 1996. "I don't know that we can play any better than we played tonight," said Missouri coach Frank Haith. "I mean we played about as flawless a game as you can play." Missouri moved to 14-0 on the season overall, remaining one of just four unbeaten teams left in the country. And they might be soon convincing any remaining doubters claiming their early season success was the result of a weak schedule. The Tigers entered Tuesday's game leading the nation in field goal percentage at 51.7 percent. That total went up even higher after a 32-for-54 (59.3 Percent) effort against the Sooners. And it's not just one or two players. Four Tigers had at least 13 points Tuesday and five hit at least one three-pointer. Missouri went 12-for-21 from the three-point line overall. Kim English led the Tigers with 23 points and nine rebounds while Marcus Denmon had 20 points and seven rebounds. Michael Dixon and Ricardo Ratliffe each had 13 points for Missouri and Matt Pressey added nine. But Tuesday night was nothing new for the Tigers. It's exactly what they've done all season. While some continue to say that the guard-oriented team can't continue to shoot at their current pace, the Tigers' shooting percentage has actually gotten better. Fourteen games in, the Tigers are almost to the midway point of the regular season. And sure, the schedule will get tougher and life on the road in Big 12 play is no easy task. But after yet another lights-out shooting performance Tuesday, we're at the point of the season now where there's no real reason to think things will change. "We're tough to guard," Haith said. "When we're making shots and we're playing inside and out and we're not turning the ball over, a team like us, you have to pick your poison. It's all keyed by when we are making shots like that. We are making shots at a high rate." And they are showing no signs of slowing. English was 8-for-12 from the field and 5-for-8 from the three-point line. Denmon was 7-for-12 from the field and hit 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc. It was the eighth game for English and seventh for Denmon in which they each hit at least three three-pointers. English entered Tuesday leading the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage while Denmon was seventh. But the Tigers are getting contributions from more than just those two. Ratliffe has made significant strides down low while Dixon might be one of the best non-starters in the country. And the Pressey brothers Matt and Phil both are providing significant contributions from the starting lineup as well. It's truly a team effort for the Tigers, who don't appear to need anybody else outside of their current seven-man rotation. "It's our unselfish nature, that's where those shots come from," English said. "It is repetition but you can't just go in the gym and shoot a lot and expect to make shots in the game. "We feed off each other and we try to get each other high percentage shots and that's why we've been blessed to have so much success as far as percentages are concerned with making shots this season." Oklahoma appeared to enter Tuesday's game as a formidable opponent, bringing a 10-2 record and the top rebounding margin in the Conference. The Sooners were the fourth-best rebounding team in the nation, averaging 42.2 rebounds per game. But Mizzou proved why they are one of the nation's best teams, dominating the bigger Sooners by a 38-23 margin on the glass. They won the points in the paint battle 36-10 and had more points off turnovers, second chance points and fast break points. The Tigers' led by as many as 42 points late in the second half. It was another beat down in every way. And while some think the Tigers' shooting percentages must eventually come down, the players appear set on showing otherwise. "We don't care what no one thinks," English said. "We don't care if you think it's going to go down. We're just trying to get better each and every day." Those expecting Missouri to get tested Tuesday will certainly predict them to face a tougher battle Saturday when they go to Manhattan, Kan., for their first Big 12 road game at Kansas State. The Tiger went just 1-7 on the road in Big 12 play last year and have struggled in recent years when visiting Kansas State. So Saturday has to be the game Missouri drops from the ranks of the undefeated, right? Don't count on it. These Tigers are special.
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