Faith in Haith: Tigers win Top 5 Showdown in Waco (and links)

#5 MIZZ (18-1, 5-1 Big 12) 39 50 89
#3 BAY (17-2, 4-2) 35 53 88

Top Performers

Missouri: R. Ratliffe 27 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Blk

Baylor: P. Jackson 20 Pts, 4 Reb, 15 Ast, 1 Stl

Brian Graham, KC SportsNation

WACO, TX -Remember the criticism and outright rage over the Frank Haith hiring? A lot of people have forgotten. I was one of the critics. But he and the Tigers have used their critics as motivation this year and together they have done things past head coaches and teams could not do. He was ridiculed because he took Miami to just one NCAA tournament in seven years at Miami. But, like Kim English said, “Basketball at Miami is a lot like football at Kansas.”

Read between the lines there.

English defended the hiring on Twitter saying to give the guy a chance and that they “know nothing” about coach Haith.

Haith already has more road wins (2) in Big 12 play in three tries than Mike Anderson had all of last year (1) following Mizzou’s 89-88 win at No. 3 Baylor (17-2, 4-2 Big 12).

The Tigers (18-1, 5-1) No. 5 ranking is highest since 2003-2004, when they got as high as No. 2 before collapsing, and finishing 16-16 and losing in the NIT’s first round.

Yes, these are not Haith’s players. But he has made it HIS team. His stamp is on this team. They are tough. They have great chemistry and they are selfless. They play only seven players – and all of them have been the difference in a game at least once this season.

After the game Haith told his players, “no celebrating, expect to win” on the heels of the best win in the Big 12 this season – maybe nationally – and the Tigers first road win over a ranked team in 12 tries and over a Top 10 team in 22 tries, the first time since 1994.

“No one game will dictate our season,” Haith added. “We will dictate our season. No win or loss will break us at this point of the season.”

Haith has instilled this mentality into his team following their beatdown at Manhattan, delivered by Kansas State in Missouri’s first conference road game Jan. 7. He used that as a teaching point and gave his team a lesson on toughness.

Is Haith not only the Big 12 Coach of the Year, but the National Coach of the Year if you had to pick one right now?

“Toughness is not just about being physically tough,” English said. “It is also about being mentally tough. We were not mentally tough when we went to Manhattan. Now we are.”

Following the loss, Haith had every one of his players read the 2009 essay on “toughness” by ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.

The Tigers, despite being outsized – like always – were tougher than Baylor, seemed to have wanted it more than Baylor “needed it.” As English point out earlier in the season, that being tough isn’t just about size. Its about wanting it more. No one knows more than him, who as the Tigers second-tallest starter at just 6-foot-6 and third tallest player that plays, continually has to guard – and is guarded – by taller, bigger players.

“Size doesn’t matter,” English said. “For every bushfire, there’s rain. Everything evens out in basketball. Height limits speed. Every thing has a reciprocal effect. I may have to guard bigger guys, but those bigger guys have to guard me. I’m 6-foot-5, but I guard 6-9 forwards all summer when I’m home. I guard Melo and Rudy Gay all summer in Baltimore. I don’t care about guarding someone that’s big.”

“Coach Haith has a lot to do with it,” English added. “He says we’re good enough to get any shot we want. A guy could take someone off the bounce, but we’re also good enough as a unit where we should never have to take a contested shot.”

Five 6-7 players with wingspan’s over 7-feet for Baylor? No problem for the Tigers, who out-rebounded the Bears 32-27 – but most notably owned the glass in the first half by double digits, where they had almost as many offensive rebounds (10) as Baylor’s total rebounds. This helped the Tigers amazingly lead 39-35 at halftime despite Baylor shooting over 60%.

And this just goes to show you about this year’s team. Yes, they are always outsized. And most the opponent have more depth. But somehow the Tigers get it done.

And as I have said in the past, they have the best backcourt in the nation. This lack of size is an advantage for the Tigers. It’s a big man’s game, but Missouri’s speed and quickness counters other team’s size and I will take that speed and quickness every time.

Mizzou moved to 3-2 all-time in Top Five versus Top Five matchups. They shot poorly on 3-pointers (7-21), were iffy from the line (12-19 until making 10 of last 12), where they missed seven in the final three minutes as Baylor furiously rallied (scoring 22 points on their final 11 possessions), turned the ball over a season-high 18 times, didn’t get a great game from Marcus Denmon and Baylor shot 57% from the floor (36-63), but got the job done.

Of course it helped having a career-game from ‘Cardo Ratliffe, who scored 27 points and pulled down eight rebounds – six offensive – and increased his nationally-leading field goal percentage with an 11-of-14 effort. He was in straight beast mode and played like a man possessed in the paint with his unstoppable baby hook over his right shoulder and earned a few Antwan Jamison comparisons.

“He was outstanding,” Haith declared. “He was great around the hoop. He is our only big man besides Steve Moore, and there is a lot of pressure on him to perform every night. He came through.”

Ratliffe blocked two shots and turned Baylor’s star big, Perry Jones III, into a non-factor, with eight points and four boards.

But that effort wasn’t even good enough for Player of the Game. That goes to point guard Phil Flip “cooler than the flip side of the pillow (there you go Justin Rhodes)” Pressey. The sophomore dominated 18 points, seven assists, six steals and five rebounds, and his defense allowed Mizzou to stretch a small lead to double-digits midway through the second half when he picked Pierre Jackson’s pocket three times in a row in what was an epic battle of STUD point guards.

Phil Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe led Missouri to its first road win over a Top 10 team since 1994.

Jackson scored 20 points and dished out 15 assists in his first career start.

Freshman Quincy Miller scored 29 points, and gave Baylor its only second-half lead with a 3-pointer, 44-43, at the 17:29 mark. From there, Missouri regained the lead, kept Baylor at bay with a two or four point lead, but used a 8-0 run – aided by the three Pressey steals to gain a 10-point advantage, 68-58 with eight minutes left. They led by as much as 12 and were still up 10 with three minutes left before Baylor closed the game on a 19-10 run. Aussie Brady Heslip’s 3-pointer rained home at the buzzer to bring Baylor within one point. But, don’t let the score fool you. Missouri was in control throughout the second half, making the win even more impressive.

Pressey, with Mizzou up three in the final minute, ran down a length of the court toss from Denmon on the inbounds pass, which only he or Dixon could have ran down.

Pressey and Ratliffe had the pick-and-roll working to perfection, burning the Bears defense all day. With 9:35 remaining the game with Mizzou up 60-58, Pressey hit Ratliffe for a dunk to put Missouri up four, hit Ratliffe again after a steal that led to two free throws, had an easy lay-up after another steal and the took one away from Jackson again to set-up Ratliffe for another lay-up and Missouri was suddenly up 10.

Pressey and Ratliffe carried Mizzou, but it was Denmon, who once again tried his disappearing act,” iced the game hitting 5-of-6 free throws in the final 33 seconds.  Denmon continues to struggle shooting on the road, going 1-7 from 3, and just 3-9 overall with five turnovers, but still managed to score, this time with two garbage tip-in’s and getting to the line, where the 92% free throw shooter hit 8-of-10.

Same goes for English. English, like Denmon, are so much better shooters at home, but now English has more to his game than just scoring, so unlike the second half of his sophomore year and all of last year when he doesn’t score he brings nothing else to the table and hurts the team, he does other things to help the team now. He drew another charge, I think for the 100th time this season. He once led the nation in 3-point shooting, but has been struggling as of late, but despite his 1-3 from downtown, hit three huge jumpers from the free throw line flashing into the middle of the zone. Other times he was in the short corner and was the catalyst of breaking down the Bears zone defense. He also made a great defensive play, hustling down court to block Heslip’s 3-pointer from behind with 10 minutes remaining, leading to a Scott Drew technical.

***

Some stats of note:

  • Matt Pressey hit all three 3-point attempts, scoring 9 points. The 6-3 center was called upon to guard 6-9 Quincy Acy on more than one occasion. Despite being a poor jump shooter, he is now shooting (40.5%) better than Marcus Denmon (40.3%) on the season from 3. Of course, Pressey’s are WIDE OPEN.
  • Missouri struggled at the line, but hit 10 of 12 in the final minute. If Missouri makes just 9-of-12, the game goes into OT.
  • The Missouri bench outscored the Bears’ 10-3. Mike Dixon, coming off his 18-point performance, was just 1-of-5 from the field (0-4 from 3), but went perfect from the line (4-4) and had a nice driving scoop lay-up in the second half. Steve Moore played 14 huge minutes in the first half – many alongside Ratliffe as English was on the bench with two quick fouls.
  • Ratliffe averaged an amazing 1.93 points per attempt and ROSE his field goal percentage while taking 14 shots.
  • Baylor shot 2-of-10 from 3-point range in the first 39 minutes, then made five in the final minute.
  • Missouri shot 55% from the field and are second nationally (51%) in shooting. They are also fourth (83.4) in scoring and lead the nation in scoring margin.
  • The Mizzou-Baylor Top 5 Showdown was the first ever at Baylor’s Ferrel Center, and the first ever advanced sellout at the arena. It was also the first Top 5 battle not featuring Kansas or Texas, in the league’s history.

Final Thoughts: Missouri won on the road at the No. 3 team in the nation, and will likely be ranked No. 2 – possibly No. 1 – by Monday afternoon. Can this be a magical season for the Tigers? How good are they? How far can they go? The win settles the fact that Mizzou is certainly a conference title contender. They are in second place behind undefeated Kansas (16-3, 6-0), but have done so with a more difficult schedule, already playing at Baylor and Kansas State, while Kansas has to go to both still, as well at both games with Missouri. Don’t let two losses in one week fool you into thinking Baylor is out of it, but hurting at home to Mizzou hurts as they still have to go to Columbia. Im not going to project anything at this point. Im just going to sit back and enjoy what could be a memorable season – the Tigers last in the Big 12.

Up Next: Missouri travels to Stillwater to take on a bad Oklahoma State team (9-10, 2-4) on Wednesday. Gallagher-Iba is still a very difficult place to play and there is no such thing as a “given” with conference road games, but after this game the Tigers play four out of five games at Mizzou Arena with their one road game being a big Monday trip to Austin Jan. 30, followed by College Game Day in Columbia as Kansas comes to town Feb. 4. I think we are going to have two great MU-KU games this year.

***

MIZZ
BAY
Points 89 88
FG Made-Attempted 30-55 (.545) 36-63 (.571)
3P Made-Attempted 7-21 (.333) 7-16 (.438)
FT Made-Attempted 22-31 (.710) 9-11 (.818)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 14 (0/0) 25 (1/0)
Largest Lead 12 3
MIZZ BAY
Points R. Ratliffe 27 Q. Miller 29
Rebounds R. Ratliffe 8 Q. Acy 9
Assists P. Pressey 7 P. Jackson 15
Steals P. Pressey 6 A. Walton 3
Blocks S. Moore 2 Q. Acy 2
Team Stats: Missouri | Baylor
Missouri Tigers
STARTERS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
Ricardo Ratliffe, F 34 11-14 0-0 5-7 6 8 0 0 2 6 4 27
Marcus Denmon, G 39 3-9 1-7 8-10 1 3 1 1 0 5 1 15
Kim English, G 27 4-8 1-3 1-2 1 2 4 1 0 1 5 10
Phil (Flip) Pressey, G 31 6-11 2-5 4-8 1 5 7 6 0 4 1 18
Matt Pressey, G 28 3-5 3-3 0-0 0 2 3 1 1 1 1 9
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
Steve Moore, C 18 2-3 0-0 0-0 2 3 0 1 2 0 1 4
Michael Dixon, G 23 1-5 0-3 4-4 1 4 2 1 0 1 1 6
TOTALS FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
30-55 7-21 22-31 12 27 17 11 5 18 14 89
54.5% 33.3% 71.0%
Baylor Bears
STARTERS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
Quincy Acy, F 31 8-13 0-0 2-2 3 9 1 2 2 2 4 18
Perry Jones III, F-C 29 4-7 0-0 0-0 0 4 1 0 0 3 1 8
Brady Heslip, G 25 4-9 2-6 0-0 0 0 2 0 0 1 4 10
Pierre Jackson, G 35 7-10 3-5 3-4 1 4 15 1 0 6 3 20
Quincy Miller, F 31 12-17 1-1 4-5 4 4 0 0 2 4 2 29
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
Anthony Jones, F 11 1-3 1-1 0-0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 3
Cory Jefferson, F 3 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
A.J. Walton, G 22 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 0 2 3 0 2 4 0
Gary Franklin, G 11 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 2 0 0 1 4 0
Deuce Bello, G 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0
TOTALS FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF PTS
36-63 7-16 9-11 10 24 23 7 5 19 25 88
57.1% 43.8% 81.8%

***

LINKS

MUtigers.com: No. 5 Tigers Escape No. 3 Baylor with 89-88 Victory

The Trib: Tigers topple Bears in top-five showdown
The Trib: MU’s Ratliffe manhandles bigger Baylor frontcourt

The Missourian: Missouri chalks up road win against Baylor
The Missourian: PHOTO GALLERY: Missouri takes down Baylor

KC Star: No. 5 MU makes statement with win at No. 3 Baylor
KC Star: MU’s Ratliffe has career game against big Baylor front line
KC Star: Tigers force Bears to drop zone defense

Post-Dispatch: Mizzou comes up huge at Baylor
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou applies brakes to a long skid on the road

PowerMizzou: Post-Game Hoops Thoughts

SB Nation: Tigers Hold On For 89-88 Win

Our Daily Bears: Baylors’ Big XII Championship Hopes Dashed in Home Loss to Mizzou

Fox Sports MW: It’s all about toughness for Mizzou Tigers

Hank’s Sports Blog: Ratliffe scores career-high 27 points as No. 5 Missouri holds off No. 3 Baylor

Searching For Billy Edelin: Five Takeaways: Missouri-Baylor

CBS Sports: Missouri proves itself as legit in Waco

ESPN.com: Rapid Reaction: Missouri 89, Baylor 88
ESPN.com: Missouri once again answers skeptics
ESPN.com: VIDEO: Fran Fraschilla on Mizzou’s win at Baylor

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