College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 4, 2012
The Missouri Tigers don't boast a lot of size on their front line. In fact, the Tigers start four guards, leaving 6'8" forward Ricardo Ratliffe to handle the middle.
But, what Missouri lacks in size, they more than compensate for with a combination of speed, a nagging defense, deft passing, accurate shooting and senior leadership, all of those elements coming together in the 4th-ranked team in the country taking down #8 Kansas in what could have been the end of a 106-year tradition of border wars, 74-71.
After Tyshawn Taylor's dunk with 3:24 left to play made the score 71-63, senior Marcus Denman went to work, scoring the next nine points on a layup, free throw and two straight three-pointers to put the Tigers ahead, 72-71 with 56 seconds to go.
After Taylor missed a pair of free throws and then fouled Matt Pressey, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Teylor turned the ball over and then Elijah Johnson fouled Michael Dixon with 10 seconds left. Dixon cooled canned a pair and Kansas could only get off a desperation heave as time expired.
Denmon led all scorers with 29 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including a 6-for-9 effort from beyond the arc. The 6'3" guard made three of four from the foul line and collected nine rebounds in leading Missouri to its 22nd win against just two losses and a three-way tie atop the Big 12, at 8-2, along with Kansas and Baylor, both of which the Tigers have beaten.
Kansas dropped to 18-5, despite 25 points and 13 rebounds from player of the year candidate, Thomas Robinson. Missouri's superb sixth man, Dixon, scored 20 and Kim English added 18 points.
The game was the 266th meeting between the two schools, a rivalry that dates back to the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, and could be the final time the two take the court in Missouri, as the Tigers have opted to depart the Big 12 for the SEC beginning next season. There will be one more match-up in the storied series when Missouri visits Kansas on February 25 and the two could meet again in the Big 12 tournament.
NOTABLE: #1 Kentucky had an easy time with South Carolina, bombing the Gamecocks, 86-52, as freshman Anthony Davis scored 22 points and blocked eight shots, breaking Shaquille O'Neal's SEC freshman blocks record.
#2 Syracuse welcomed the return of center Fab Melo with a 95-70 win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden. The win moved coach Jim Boeheim past Dean Smith into third place all-time with his 879th victory.
There were three upsets of ranked teams, all in the middle of the polls. #12 Creighton fell to Northern Iowa, 65-62; Wyoming took the measure of #13 UNLV, 68-66; and, giant-killer Notre Dame defeated #15 Marquette, 76-59. All three of the upsets were on the winners' home courts.