January 6, 2009

Taylor turns on the offense

Entering Saturday's game against Georgia, junior guard Zaire Taylor was known more for his defense and ball distribution rather than his offense. And, with a 38.5% field-goal percentage and only 4.3 points per game, that reputation was probably well deserved.

Against the Bulldogs, however, the pass-first point guard showed an aggressive score-first mentality that no one had seen this year. Along with DeMarre Carroll, Taylor finished with a team-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Taylor added three rebounds, three assists and a steal to round out an impressive line

"I'm not really known as a big-time scorer," Taylor said. "I've been telling you for a while that I can score."

The majority of Taylor's offense came in the second half of the game. Taylor scored 13 points in the final eight minutes and helped the Tigers put the game out of reach.

Taylor's offense was certainly needed. For the first 12 games of the season, Missouri's offense seemed to click only when the two towers - Carroll and Leo Lyons - put up impressive numbers. When Lyons and Carroll were on, the Tigers have won impressively (see the 21.6 ppg scoring margin, 2nd nationally only to No. 1-ranked UNC). When one, or both, disappeared, the Tigers were in trouble (see the loses to Xavier and Illinois).

While Carroll was his reliable self on Saturday, Lyons was a no-show in the first half. He finished the game with 12 points, but only had three on 1-of-2 shooting at halftime.

So what was the reason for Taylor's aggressive finish to the game?

Carroll said it stemmed from a talk he had with his teammate before the game.

"I said, 'Zaire, you gotta be aggressive,'" Carroll said. "J.T. (Tiller) be giving his all, but J.T. can only do so much for us. We really need for him (Taylor) to be aggressive."

"DeMarre would take credit for me scoring points," Taylor said. "That's how DeMarre do it. But, pretty much, DeMarre always tells me to attack. When we play pick up, there are times when I'll score a lot of points."

Of course, Taylor explained, this doesn't mean he's going to be a ball-hogging point guard from now on.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to Missouri scoring points," Taylor said. "Whether it's me, or DeMarre, or Leo, it doesn't matter, as long as we get that W."

Taylor and the Tigers will go for win number 13 tonight against Coppin State at Mizzou Arena.

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