Mike Anderson

ven when their shots aren’t falling, these Longhorns are hard to beat.

No. 7 Texas (18-3, 6-0 Big 12) shot 55 percent from the field and made only 11 of 26 free throws in the second half but held on to defeat Missouri 71-58 Saturday night at the Erwin Center.

The 11th-ranked Tigers (17-4, 3-3) weren’t any better, shooting 33.9 percent from the field for the game. It was the lowest point total of the season for the conference’s top-scoring offense.

“I think they're one of the hottest teams in the country and tonight I think they showed why,” Missouri head coach Mike Anderson said about Texas.

Texas’ Jordan Hamilton led all scorers with 18 points. Gary Johnson finished with 15, surpassing the 1,000-point career benchmark at Texas when he hit a jumper with 5:41 to play in the first half.

But it was Texas’ defense that kept it in the game. The Longhorns once more held an opponent to its lowest point total of the season, after limiting Oklahoma State to 46 on Wednesday and Oklahoma to the same amount on Jan. 15.

“We’re a good defensive team. That’s pretty much it,” said Texas forward Gary Johnson. “I think good defense beats good offense on any given night.”

They got one block, from Tristan Thompson, and seven steals, creating eight points off turnovers and six more on fast breaks.

The Longhorns also outrebounded their opponents 41-31. The Tigers’ second-best rebounder, Laurence Bowers, left the game after suffering what appeared to be a head injury ten minutes into the contest.

“That is probably seven less rebounds and 11 or 12 less points,” said Missouri’s Kim English. “He was definitely missed.”

Texas opened with a 10-0 run that had “the fastest 40 minutes in basketball” looking slow. Trying to live up to its self-proclaimed motto, Missouri ran a full-court trap most of the night, but the Longhorns were usually able to beat it with ball movement. The Tigers ended up with just two fast-break points.

"They were averaging 23 points off turnovers coming in, so it also places a premium on taking care of the ball," said Texas head coach Rick Barnes.

The Longhorns built a 38-27 lead heading into halftime.

For how fast Texas started the game, poor shooting and turnovers allowed Missouri to shrink the deficit back within single digits in the second half.

"It may have been the toughest game we've been through all year," Barnes said. "When you have an 11 or 12 point lead against Missouri, it is not enough because they can be so explosive with their offense."

A 3-pointer from Missouri's Michael Dixon cut the difference to seven with 10:40 left in the game. But J'Covan Brown and Cory Joseph both hit jumpers to put Texas up by 11 and the Tigers never threatened the lead again. The Longhorns pulled away to reach 6-0 in Big 12 play for the first time in program history.

“We made a couple runs at ‘em but we just couldn’t quite get over the hump,” Anderson said. “We didn’t play some of our best basketball."

In addition to limiting Missouri's scoring, the Texas defense held the Tigers to their lowest field-goal percentage, 3-pointer field-goal percentage (0.22) and assists (6) of the season. It took over five minutes for Missouri to score in the first half.

"It was a really good win for us against a team that doesn't quit," Barnes said.
 

The biggest storyline of Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State, aside from the touching tribute to the 10 killed in a 2001 plane crash, was Dogus Balbay’s defense.
The Texas guard held OSU’s second-leading scorer to zero points and overall the Longhorn defense limited the Cowboys to their lowest scoring total of the season.

“That’s what Dogus is known for,” said Texas’ Jordan Hamilton, “stopping the best player on the other team.”

Balbay’s role will be even more crucial this Saturday against No. 11 Missouri, which has the best scoring offense in the Big 12 and fifth-best in the country with 85 points per game. The team also had a week off since its last game Jan. 22.

“When you’re playing well, you don’t really want to have that open week, but it’s on the schedule, and we’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Missouri head coach Mike Anderson, who is also the father of Texas women’s player Yvonne Anderson.

The Tigers (17-3, 3-2 Big 12) don’t have a single scorer in the conference’s top five, but they do have five players averaging double digits in points. For comparison, Texas (17-3, 5-0) has four and is fourth in the conference in scoring offense.

Missouri scores from all over the court and moves the ball well, averaging 18 assists per game, second only to Kansas in the league. Most of the dishes can be attributed to two young guards: sophomore Michael Dixon with 4.5 assists per game, and freshman Phil Pressey with 3.8 per game.

The Tigers are also known for their press defense. The so-called “40 minutes of hell” approach Anderson brought from his time under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas is a big hit in Columbia and helped the team reach the Elite Eight in 2009 and the second round of the tournament last year.

Missouri started the season No. 15 and has bounced around the rankings with inconsistent performances. The Tigers lost 111-102 to No. 21 Georgetown on Nov. 30 but a month later defeated No. 20 Illinois, which Texas has also beaten.

Missouri went on to lose its conference opener against Colorado but since then is 3-1 in Big 12 play, with the sole loss coming against Texas A&M in overtime.

The Tigers’ biggest weakness is on the glass, where they are ninth in the conference in rebounding margin. Wednesday’s announcement by the NCAA that 6-foot-8 freshman Tony Mitchell won’t be eligible to play for Missouri this season surely won’t help that statistic.

Now Missouri travels to Austin to face Texas, a team that is averaging 7.1 more rebounds than its opponents this season.

“They’re going to get in there, rebound and bang and do whatever it takes to win,” Anderson said about the Longhorns. “It’s a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence. I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now and really playing awfully well at home.”

Missouri head coach Mike Anderson’s teams are known for playing the fastest 40 minutes in basketball.

His hard-nosed, in-your-face philosophy has followed Anderson wherever he’s gone — from Arkansas down to Alabama and back up to Missouri. Anderson’s squads, stocked with versatile and rangy athletes year after year, always seem to be moving a step quicker than the opposition.

Every coach knows what to expect when preparing for an Anderson-coached team: full-court pressure from start to finish.

But this year’s Tigers outfit has been equally effective on the offensive end.

Missouri is sixth in the nation in both points per game (85) and assists per game (18). But the success of the offense isn’t stopping Anderson from continuing to instill a tough, defensive mindset. He says the Tigers are at their best when they are focused defensively.

“Our defense has picked up, earlier in the year we were just trying to outscore people,” Anderson said. “I’ve been on these guys to play athletic. It’s amazing sometimes how that can be contagious.”

Anderson learned from the best while assisting Nolan Richardson at Arkansas in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s. Anderson has taken Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” philosophy and crafted his own with great success.

During his time at Alabama-Birmingham, Anderson’s pesky defenders propelled the Blazers to the NCAA tournament for three straight years. And he hasn’t dropped off since moving to Missouri, winning more games in his first four years than any coach in school history.

His Tigers are eager to return to Big 12 Championship form after winning the conference and reaching the Elite Eight in 2009. No. 11 Missouri might just get the chance, thanks to key contributions from a pair of rookies.
“We’ve got more guys ready to play now than we had earlier in the year,” Anderson said.

Freshman point guard Phil Pressey returned from a broken hand in time for the Tigers’ Big 12 opener and has breathed life to their backcourt. Pressey, who played high school ball in Dallas, has shown flashes of greatness this season, finding open teammates for easy buckets — part of the reason Missouri is second in the conference in assists.

“He has a great gift for making other people look pretty good,” Anderson said.

But while the broken hand limited his play early on — he missed four games — Pressey is finding a groove in conference play.

“Not many guys can do the things he’s doing at this level after coming off of an injury,” Anderson said.

But the neophyte hasn’t made all the adjustments needed to be an elite college player, at least not yet. He’ll get an opportunity to showcase his talent against Texas freshman point guard Cory Joseph when the two ranked teams collide Saturday.

While Pressey has brought depth to the guard position, junior college transfer Ricardo Ratliffe has brought a physical presence to Missouri’s frontcourt. The Tigers’ leading rebounder, Ratliffe is second on the team with 1.7 blocks per game.

“He was the big dog at Central Florida and he came in with great accolades but this is a new level here,” Anderson said. “Early on he was trying to fit in, but that adjustment period is over for him.”

If Anderson can get his team to play his type of defense, it could be a long weekend for Texas fans.