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February 12, 2011

Emptying the Bench



As recently as last Saturday night, Mike Anderson was asked about settling on his starting lineup. Anderson repeated what might as well replace the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" as his program slogan.

"We don't have any starters."

As if to reinforce his point, Missouri's bench scored exactly half of the Tigers' points in an 84-61 win over Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon.



"Big kudos to our bench," Anderson said. "They scored 42 points, but it wasn't as much the points they scored. I thought it was just how they came out defensively and really just got up in the passing lanes, pressuring the ball, rebounding the ball and they shared the basketball on the other end. Great execution."

With 12:17 to go in the first half, the Tigers trailed Oklahoma 18-11. The second unit then led a 14-0 run that put the Tigers up seven over the next six minutes and 45 seconds.

"The guys coming off the bench know what coach is looking for and that's energy," Justin Safford said.

"Obviously, a lot of guys on the bench can put the ball in the hole," Mike Dixon Jr. said. "But we got some points off our defense. The points just come with playing hard."

They came for Dixon. After the Sooners closed to within six points at the break, Dixon scored all 16 of his points in the second half. Combined with Safford's 11-more than he had scored since January 5th against North Alabama-and seven from Ricky Kreklow, which more than doubled his previous high in Big 12 play. The Tiger reserves were so good that Dixon, Safford and Steve Moore were designated as the only players allowed to speak with the media about Mizzou's win.

"Mike Dixon, I thought he played really well and he's been doing that in practice the last couple of days," Anderson said. "Ricky Kreklow, Justin Safford looked like a poised senior out there, Steve Moore."

Kreklow started the bench's run with a banked-in three pointer, the first he has made in ten Big 12 games.

"I know Kreklow hasn't made a shot and of course it comes against us on a bank, with a contest," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "We told our guys he hadn't made a shot, but he's a shooter. I watched that kid in high school and he can shoot the ball. Sometimes all it takes is one and that's what happened."

"Intended, unintended, it went in," Anderson said. "Maybe that will be the shot that gives him confidence."

The bench delivered on a night when Kim English made just 2-of-10 shots and Marcus Denmon headed to the locker room with more than seven minutes left to get stitches under his eye courtesy of an inadvertent elbow from Laurence Bowers on a rebound.

"He's got one of those war wounds," Anderson said. "We'll know more tomorrow, but I'm almost sure he will (play Tuesday)."

The win moved Missouri to 19-and-6 on the season and 5-and-5 in Big 12 play. The Tigers are in fifth place alone and no more than a game-and-a-half out of third regardless of the outcome of the rest of the day's games.

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