Four days after being dismantled on the road against No. 18 Kansas State, the No. 9 Missouri Tigers got an impressive road win against a much improved Iowa State team.
The Cyclones came into the game scoring 76 points per game and ranking just behind the Tigers in the conference in 3-point shooting. Even though they finished 12-for-23 from 3-point land on Wednesday night, Iowa State was held below their season average for points in a 76-69 loss at the hands of Missouri.
What made the win all the more impressive for Missouri was the fact that the Tigers leading scorer Marcus Denmon was held to just 6 points on only 5 field goal attempts, both team lows. Denmon was never able to get into the flow of the game as he was matched up with Chris Babb, a lockdown defender who never let the senior guard out of his sight.
Denmon has had below-average games at times this year (vs. Illinois, vs. William & Mary, vs. Binghamton), but this was by far his worst game of the year. In a tough road environment at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, the other six Tigers who played more than picked up the slack offensively, shooting a collective 30-for-55 from the floor.
Even with good interior defense from Iowa State (5 blocks), Missouri kept attacking the rim. That game plan was successful for both guards and forwards as the Tigers outscored the Cyclones in the paint 40-20.
The Tigers were able to overcome a pedestrian performance from Denmon, even without their 3-point shots falling at their normal high rate (5-for-21 for the game, 41 percent for the season). Even without the open shots falling from long range, the Tigers were able to adjust and find success on offense to come out on top with a gritty win.
Finally, Missouri did all this going against a premier post player in Royce White. Even though both Kim English and Steve Moore fouled out trying to stop White from getting to the hoop, the 6-8 sophomore forward finished with only 16 points and 6 rebounds. A game after grabbing 18 rebounds and recording a triple-double, White was held in check by Missouri because of early foul trouble, poor free throw shooting and good post defense.
After getting manhandled by Kansas State's impressive interior presence, Missouri's performance against a talented post player in White should be a huge positive for the team going forward.
If the Tigers want to be the top team in the Big 12 at season's end, they have to show that they can contend with teams that have a big presence in the post. Along with Missouri, the other two teams at the top of the conference figure to be Baylor and Kansas and both of those teams have great talent in the frontcourt. Iowa State is another one of those teams in the conference with a good post presence, so for Missouri to come away with a road victory against them is no small feat.
Missouri has a short break before a short two-game homestand starting on Saturday. The Tigers tip off against the Texas Longhorns at 12 p.m. on Saturday before hosting the struggling Texas A&M Aggies on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
For more on the Tigers, visit our Missouri blog, Rock M Nation.