February 25, 2009

Beasts on the Boards

If there has been a criticism of Mike Anderson's style of basketball-and, to be honest, there haven't been many of late-it is that his teams seem to have trouble rebounding. Facing the best rebounding team in the Big 12 Conference, Anderson's Missouri Tigers made that claim look foolish.

"I think the guys proved that they had pride tonight," Zaire Taylor said. "That's a great rebounding team. Everybody that was asked, when they got on the floor, they gave it their all. To the buzzer."

The Tigers technically were outrebounded 43-39 by Kansas State. But Mizzou turned 20 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points. Sixteen of those came in a first half where Missouri built an insurmountable 55-32 lead.

"That first half was probably the best first half we've played since I've been here," Anderson said. "Right to the end."

Quite literally. Holding for the final shot in the last thirty seconds, J.T. Tiller drove the lane. He missed a jumper, but freshman Laurence Bowers tipped in the miss. Miguel Paul, capping the best half of his career, stole the inbounds pass. He missed a jumper and Tiller missed another. But there was the long-armed Bowers, again reaching up to tip in a miss. The freshman's six points in the final 44 seconds put Mizzou up 23 at the break.

"When he got that tip-in, that says a lot," Taylor said. "He's just got a nose for the ball. He does so many things when he's out there, it's just amazing."

"Effort," Bowers said when asked what makes a great rebounder. "Will. Wanting to do it. It's something I take pride in."

Bowers had just three rebounds on the night, but those two may have been the biggest of the game. Banging the boards was something Anderson emphasized coming in.

"We talked about that and in the first half, we did a tremendous job attacking the glass," the coach said. "I think DeMarre kind of set the tone."

Indeed, DeMarre Carroll posted a career-high 14 rebounds on the night. He had just four points in the first half, but ended as Mizzou's leading scorer with 21.

Kansas awaits. The Tigers beat the Jayhawks 62-60 in a game they trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half earlier this season. It is now the Jayhawks who will have payback on their minds. But these Tigers are shrinking from no challenge.

"We've got a lot of confidence on our hands," Lyons said. "We played a horrible game and still came out with the win."

The Tigers and Jayhawks tip at 1:00 on Sunday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. The winner will lead the Big 12 race with just two games to play.

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