A player of the year candidate was collapsing before everyone's eyes.
After averaging 20.9 points in the first 10 games of the season, Missouri's scoring leader Marcus Denmon went into a deep shooting slump, seeing his scoring average plummet to 14.2 in the next 12 games. It's not like he wasn't shooting the ball, either. Denmon shot 54.9 percent from the floor through the first 10 games of the year and only 33.8 percent in the next 12.
The slump was apparent in Denmon's body language as well, especially in last Monday's game against Texas. After missing a couple of layups that he usually makes easily, the 6-3 senior slumped his shoulders in extreme disgust as he ran back down the court.
It was obvious to everyone around the team that something wasn't right with the team's leading scorer, but to the credit of everyone on the coaching staff, they told Denmon to just keep shooting and the slump would end eventually.
With the final home game against Kansas next on the schedule, Denmon decided he was ready to be back to his old self. He was so confident in himself that he announced it to everyone on Twitter.
Good win most importantly, I'll be ready on Saturday— Marcus Denmon (@MizzouMonster12) January 31, 2012
From the first points scored in the game for Missouri, a desperation 3-pointer by Denmon from a step in front of the half-court logo, it was clear that the Tigers had their best player back.
Denmon made a number of ridiculous shots similar to the first one he made on the way to a 73-71 win against Kansas, including 9 of the last 11 points scored in the game. In that time, he made a tough and-1 while crashing into Thomas Robinson, a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer coming off a screen and a heat-check 3-pointer to take the lead.
Those shots would be impressive at any time in the season, but they all came in the last 2 and a half minutes of the most important game in the year.
That takes some guts.
His performance on the big stage (29 points against KU) earned him Big 12 player of the week honors for the first time all season. Who knew that the slump would end at such a perfect time?
It wasn't just the Kansas game that got everyone's attention, though. Only 44 hours after the Kansas game ended, Missouri was in Norman, Okla. tipping off a game against the Oklahoma Sooners.
That short turnaround didn't seem to affect Denmon, who scored 13 of Missouri's first 30 points as well as 10 of the team's first 12 points in the second half. Denmon finished the game leading the Tigers with 25 points on the way to a tight 71-68 road win.
Standing at 9-2 in the conference and 22-2 overall, the Tigers seem to be picking up steam again toward the end of the season, and that is largely because of the resurgence of Denmon.
Without their go-to scorer who can create his own shot as well as hit from long range, the Tigers got stagnant on offense at times during Denmon's dry spell. Now that he seems to be back on track, the Tigers' offense will be even tougher to stop.