During live thread updates, I wrote that Chicago State was going to struggle to break 40 against Missouri Monday night with the way the game was going.
I was wrong.
It was a struggle to break 30.
Missouri dominated the hapless Cougars in every way imaginable. It was really a sight to behold. The Cougars finally broke 30 with 1:49 to go, and the Tigers finished the win for a final scoreline of 91-33. Pure domination.
Now, it’s important to pump the brakes on this win just a little bit. Chicago State is, well, to be blunt, terrible. Just terrible. The Cougars are 351st out of 353 teams in the KenPom rankings. Lord help Maryland Eastern-Shore and Mississippi Valley State if they had to come to Mizzou Arena.
Even against weaker opponents, Missouri has struggled to start off games with explosiveness on offense. Not Monday night. A couple three-pointers from Mitchell Smith and Mark Smith set the tone, fueling a quick 8-0 lead and forcing the Cougars to call timeout.
Missouri started off hot from deep, and never cooled down. The Tigers finished the night 16-31 from three, their best performance of the season.
Mark Smith found his hot hand after a rough outing against Illinois, as did Torrence Watson, and did he ever. Watson, after missing his first three attempts, found his form. He made eight out of his next 10, including a pull up jumper to beat the first half buzzer and get the season-high crowd of 9,359 at Mizzou Arena on its feet. Watson finished eight of 13 from three and 24 points, while Smith contributed 13 points on 3-5 shooting from deep.
“It felt good,” Watson said. “My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball. I think the halftime three helped me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence.”
It was a thrilling performance from Watson, who was shooting under 20% from three coming into Monday night’s game. By the second half, it was obvious he had the hot hand, and the Tigers were making every effort to get him the ball.
“They didn’t do a great job of guarding the corner, and I think Dru realized every time he came down that I was going to be right there in that same spot,” Watson said.
Watson’s eight three pointers was announced as a Mizzou Arena record in the second half, earning the sophomore guard a standing ovation.
In addition to a few Tigers finding hot hands, the Missouri scoring distribution was incredible balanced. 12 different players entered the scoring column for Missouri Monday night. Brooks Ford and Evan Yerkes even got in on the action, drilling deep threes to the utter delight of the Missouri bench.
Another entrant into the scoring column that made the fans at Mizzou Arena happy was Mario McKinney, Jr. The freshman saw his first minutes in five games and made the most of them, playing under control and with strong court vision, even getting a chance to run the point at the end of the game.
“He’s a good passer,” Cuonzo Martin said. He probably does one of the best jobs on the team of, when he gets into the lane in traffic, knowing how to jump stop and make decisions.”
The shooting was as good as it has been all season, but the lights-out effort on defense pushed the lead to borderline absurdity. With 6:39 left in the first half, the scoreboard read 29-12. With 5:51 remaining in the second half, it had grown to 78-22, a 49-10 run in just over 20 minutes of basketball.
Non-conference play is done aside from WVU at the end of January, and whoo boy— has it been a roller coaster. Two weeks ago, there were very legitimate concerns about this team in the wake of the hideous loss to Charleston Southern. Oh, how things have changed.
Missouri has won four in a row, with huge wins over Temple and Illinois, and has built quite a bit of momentum heading into the new decade.