November 25, 2006

Balance the key to a true Tiger team

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Mike Anderson has said it at almost every press conference. He has said it at most practices. He tells anyone that will listen.

"It's going to be a different guy every night," Matt Lawrence said of his coach's philosophy.

So far, it's working. On Saturday night, Missouri had eight players score at least six points, but no one scored as many as 15. The Tigers moved to 6-and-0 with an 85-56 win over Stephen F. Austin thanks in large part to great balance and 40 points from the bench.

"We had three guys in double figures, but a lot of guys who scored. We had a lot of guys play in this particular game," Anderson said. "I can't say enough about our bench."

The coach went on to prove his point by singling out Keon Lawrence, Darryl Butterfield, Vaidotas Volkus and J.T. Tiller for their efforts off the pine.

"We got a lot of people on our team that can score," said Kalen Grimes who scored a team-high 14 points against the Lumberjacks. "You're going to have, like Keon had an 18 point game, Matt Lawrence had a 22 point game. Every night it's gonna be someone different. Every night the scouting report is going to be a little something different on each guy. When it's your night, you've got to step up and play."

It is perhaps the biggest difference, among many, in this Tiger team from last season. In 2005-06, Thomas Gardner and Jimmy McKinney averaged 19.7 and 12.8 points, respectively. No one else was in double figures. That duo combined to take 47.8% of Missouri's shots on the season.

"I think we relied too much on Thomas last year," Lawrence said. "After that it was Jimmyand they put their second best defender on Jimmy and we relied too much on those two guys."

"Last year, when they took away our one and two scorers, it was kind of uncomfortable for some guys to step up and knock down shots," added Jason Horton, one of just two returning starters from last year's team. "I think now people will be more comfortable doing that because they've done it before."

Hannah and Matt Lawrence lead the team in field goal attempts this season, with 64 and 53. The pair has combined to attempt just 33.7% of the team's total shots. In fact, Mizzou has six players averaging at least five shots per game.

"Of course there are going to be nights where certain guys score for you and certain nights where there are a lot of guys," Anderson said. "Those guys, when they come in, they are contributing in a positive way and that's good for our basketball game."

Will it continue to translate into wins? The Tigers will take the court again on Monday night against Coppin State to find out.

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