Tigers heed Haith warning, stay on undefeated roll

2011-12-11T00:01:00Z 2011-12-20T01:42:08Z Tigers heed Haith warning, stay on undefeated rollBY VAHE GREGORIAN • vgregorian@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8199 stltoday.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. • Amid a scheduling lull between high-profile games against Villanova last week in New York and No. 24 Illinois on Dec. 22 in St. Louis, Mizzou coach Frank Haith had a message for his 10th-ranked team entering its game against Navy on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

"Proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow,'" Haith said, invoking the words of a mentor, Texas coach Rick Barnes. "Our guys understand it all could come down at us at any point in time."

With the exception of a tepid start and what Haith called taking the foot off the pedal after the Tigers went up 34 in the second half, MU stayed in stride with an 84-59 romp over the Midshipmen (3-8) before an announced crowd of 11,529.

MU improved to 9-0, and threat of becoming a feather duster notwithstanding, it figures to be 11-0 for the first time since 1991-92 after games against Kennesaw State on Thursday and William & Mary next Sunday.

Marcus Denmon, the top scorer in the Big 12, led the Tigers with 22 points, Ricardo Ratliffe had 14 points and eight rebounds, Kim English had 13 points, Matt Pressey 12 and Phil Pressey 11.

MU also made 23 of 28 free throws, making the Tigers 160 of 208 this season. That shooting percentage, .764, is on pace to be the best in school history based on records back to 1954. The 1996-97 team shot .758.

"You are jinxing us," Haith joked, adding, "I think everybody in the country has their methods of (coaching free throws); we've just got good shooters. These guys have really been focused when they go to the line and (don't) take it for granted."

Navy took a quick 5-0 lead, but the Tigers tied it in a four-second span on a Matt Pressey 3-point play, a Navy turnover and two free throws by Denmon.

After a Navy 3, MU launched an 11-0 run highlighted by an English 3 as Navy missed four shots and committed three turnovers.

The Midshipmen cut it to 18-15 only for Mizzou to lurch away again.

An English 3 triggered a 16-3 spurt finished off by a Phil Pressey 3 off a feed from Michael Dixon, who had forced shots against Villanova (two of 13) but gave up an open 3 to get it to Pressey.

Two Denmon 3s around Matt Pressey free throws gave the Tigers a 42-22 lead, and they went into halftime ahead 45-26.

Navy made a brief comeback bid early in the second half, but the Tigers used a 14-0 run to pull away for good.

Mizzou tight end Andrew Jones, who started double duty last week, entered the game with 57.8 seconds left — after being called back to the scorer's table because he didn't know to check in — and got in the box score with a foul in the final seconds.

Jones, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior from Smithville, Mo., north of Kansas City, was a good enough basketball player in high school to attract attention from the likes of Creighton, he said.

He has some rust to scrape off and isn't likely to play more than a spot role, but he already has been a physical presence in practice

"We're just at practice, fighting every day, basically," Ratliffe said, smiling.

Noting he could tell Jones was "really good in high school," he added, "He's got, like, basketball skills, but he still like kind of plays football."

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