Missouri ends nine-year slump vs. Illinois - KMOV.com

Missouri ends nine-year slump vs. Illinois

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After three straight holiday seasons spoiled by Illinois, finally Missouri coach Mike Anderson had his chance to crow.

"We're the ultimate team," Anderson said not once but several times after the Tigers dominated throughout in an 81-68 victory over Illinois in the annual "Braggin' Rights" game Wednesday night.

Nobody could blame Anderson for puffing out his chest. Missouri (8-3) had lost nine in a row, the last three under Anderson, in what has become a lopsided rivalry. They finally put everything together with a performance that left the Illini (8-4) dazed.

"We came out from the start and didn't do anything right," Illinois forward Demitri McCamey said. "They were pressing more, they were talking, they were working."

Missouri set the tempo with all-court pressure that hounded Illinois into a season-worst 22 turnovers as Anderson utilized a deep roster and sent out fresh bodies in waves. Eight players had significant playing time, even with senior guard Zaire Taylor limited to only four minutes because of flulike symptoms.

Unrelenting pressure is Anderson's trademark and last season Missouri advanced to final eight on the NCAA tournament. That's especially been the case at home.

Unlike the previous two Decembers, when Missouri mustered 59 and 58 points, they brought the hectic pace on the road. So hectic, Illinois blew several dunks.

"Their quickness bothered us," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "These guys are even quicker than maybe their other teams in the past. We talked about playing small, but small means quicker and they just keep sending those guards."

All Missouri players can handle the ball, which can lead to matchup confusion for opponents.

"Who is which guy? I don't know," Weber said. "They just keep coming at you."

That's the idea. Anderson starts three guards, two forwards and no center, and three of the four top threats off the bench are guards, and the overall quickness helps compensate for a lack of inside options beyond the occasional creative drive.

Guards accounted for 63 points against Illinois led by 6-6 Kim English, who was 5-for-10 from 3-point range and scored 24 points.

They're young, with only three seniors and freshmen and sophomores accounting for more than half of the scoring. Two of the seniors, J.T. Tiller and Taylor, were on the bench the last six minutes or so as Missouri put the finishing touches on the slump-busting victory.

"I thought it was organized chaos," Anderson said. "I thought we had Illinois at times on their heels. You could see the fatigue coming into their team because we play a lot of guys."

There's no intimidating the young guys, either. Freshman Michael Dixon didn't think the typical 50-50 crowd split in the raucous Braggin' Rights series was anything out of the ordinary, and scored a career-best 16 points.

"It's just basketball," Dixon said. "It's something I've been doing all my life."

Taylor served as a source of inspiration, suiting up after missing early warmups while requiring two pints of IV fluids.

"He told me, 'Coach, I'm going to give you everything I've got,"' Anderson said. "For our guys to see him lying down getting fluids and then to warm up and play, that just tells you how this team is evolving.

"That to me shows the team's leadership, and hopefully that's going to lead to ownership as well."

For Illinois, there was only frustration.

"We've got to guard somebody," Weber said. "Eighty-one points -- you're not going to beat anybody good."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

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