COLUMBIA --- He shoots, he scores! Repeat 14 times. Oh, my. When these guys are doing this, well ... Don't take it from me, take it from someone who really knows. "When Missouri is on," Baylor coach Scott Drew said, "there is nobody in the country as good as them, offensively. "Nobody. Period. "When they're making their 3s --- because they're so good at getting into the lane --- you just can't take away both. You've got to hope they're not on, but they've been on a lot this year." And they were again Saturday, as the No. 4 Tigers used a barrage of long-balls to pull away from the No. 6 Baylor Bears 72-57 before another sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers (23-2, 10-2 Big 12) misfired on their first three 3-point attempts. They were 14-of-25 the rest of the way. You just don't do that. By comparison, they were 10-of-22 on 2-pointers for the game. Shoot longer, shoot better, score more. Seems to work. "That's what they were giving us and that's what we were taking --- and making --- today," said Michael Dixon, who splashed home four 3-balls and scored 16 points. Perhaps this was just a day for carnival shots to go in, as Phil Pressey banked home a 3, one of his five on the day, in the first half.
"I'd like to know," Drew said, "if he called that." Wanna guess? "Not really," smiled Pressey, who finished with 19 points and three assists. "But that gave me a lot of confidence." In the first meeting in Waco, Tex., Ricardo Ratliffe dominated the inside for the Tigers --- a career-high 27 points in MU's 89-88 win. Saturday? Just six points. But instead of winning by one, Missouri won by 15. "I don't know what we'd do if we played ourselves," Pressey said. "But I'm not going to tell you our weaknesses. You guys have to figure that out."
Pick your poison. "When you're playing Missouri, you're going to give up something," Drew said. "We decided we were going to give up the 3, credit them for making them. "That's what's good about a good team, there are two things they can do. That's why Missouri's an elite team. It's tough to go out there and chase those guys around who can beat you off the bounce." Baylor (21-4, 8-4) --- whose four losses have come to Missouri and Kansas, two each --- were within 33-29 at the half, thanks --- not in large part, but in ALL parts --- to a whopping 23-8 rebounding edge. With Baylor's NBA size (MU has the size of a nice high school team), it was a glass mismatch, as the Bears had more offensive rebounds (12) than the Tigers had total. "We understood they were going to come out with a high-energy level and try to take advantage of their length and height," Marcus Denmon said. "We let them take advantage of that early. "It was obvious what we needed to do in the second half --- we needed to gang-rebound and make sure we kept them off the glass." Missouri won the board battle 19-13 in the second half. "As a coaching staff, we were telling them what the numbers were, so they knew," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "Rebounding is all about desire, it's all about passion, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half."
Then came a shower of 3-pointers. The Tigers led 38-37 when Dixon canned a 3-pointer with 13:10 left. After a slam dunk by Steve Moore, Kim English knocked down another 3 to make it 46-37. "Momentum is something that's huge in sports," Drew said. "In the first half, every time the crowd got into it, we answered with a bucket. "In the second half, we didn't answer." The crowd churned up a Kansas-like roar. "It got pretty loud ... the crowd does ignite us, I can't deny that," Dixon said. "We just feed off of that." Pressey added a 3 during the 20-6 burst, which included two more 3-pointers from Dixon and Denmon. In five minutes, it went from 38-37 to 58-43 --- with four different players hitting shots from beyond the arc. Who do you stop? "You can feel the momentum," Haith said. "There were a couple of times I just said: 'Let it rip.' We're comfortable with all of those guys shooting the ball." This is basketball's version of grip it and rip it. They come at you like ocean waves. Good luck stopping it. "It seems like when one of them gets hot," Baylor's Anthony Jones said, "they all get hot." The lead didn't dip below double-digits the rest of the way. Denmon scored 16 points to nudge past Jon Sunvold into 10th place on MU's career scoring list, while English, another senior, tallied 12. "It's a great accomplishment," Denmon said, "but the most important thing is just winning." This senior class (Ratliffe, a JUCO transfer not included) has now reached 100 career wins, matching the 1983 seniors for first all-time in school history. "We love winning," Denmon said. And there may be a lot more to come. "I still think there's another level this team can get to," Haith said. "I'm excited where they're at, but I still know there are some areas we can get better in. "We talk to our guys about enjoying the journey and I want them to enjoy it. They may not have felt like it after the Kansas game when I put them in a hotel, but it's fun. "During a timeout, I said: 'Guys, smile. Enjoy this. This is awesome... have fun playing the game.'" Let's hope they are, because it sure is fun to watch.