Everywhere the Lions looked, a Tiger was there. Oh my.
That’s how it appeared for the Lindenwood Lions, who faced the in-state Missouri Tigers for the first time in program history. Missouri consistently hunted down stray passes, attacked the Lindenwood offense with full-court press and showcased why they are the “Top-Cats” of Missouri college basketball.
The Tigers forced 19 turnovers, including nine in the first half alone, en route to a dominant 82-53 victory over the Lions, who recently made the transition to Division-I as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.
“The key is our depth,” Mizzou men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said when asked about the keys to the Tigers’ defense. “Being able to play to exhaustion is a very important thing when you have guys, five at a time, on the court at all times playing as hard as they have.”
Fresh off a team-leading 28 points in Friday evening’s victory over Penn, Noah Carter, who turned 22 on Sunday (his TSwift year, he called it on Instagram) paced the Mizzou offense once again with 14 points. Defensively, five Tigers recorded at least one steal, including a team-high three steals from Kobe Brown, who added 13 points and nine rebounds as well.
The ferocious Mizzou defense struck early and often against Lindenwood, beginning with a steal from Kobe Brown, who found Carter for a layup on the Tigers’ second offensive possession.
A little over two minutes later, Tre Gomillion picked Lindenwood forward Cam Burrell’s pocket for a steal and lobbed a pass ahead for DeAndre Gholston, who energized the Mizzou crowd with a two-handed dunk. This gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game.
Mizzou continued its suffocating defensive presence throughout the remainder of the half, forcing 10 turnovers and scoring 10 points off of those Lindenwood miscues.
Of those mistakes, a few proved quite costly for the Lions.
After a three-pointer from Lindenwood forward Keenon Cole at the 13:44 mark of the first half, the Lions forced their own turnover on Sean East II. Moments later, however, Nick Honor swiped a pass from Lindenwood guard Kevin Caldwell, Jr. to set the momentum back in Mizzou’s favor.
Honor, who made two free throws after being fouled on the ensuing shot attempt, finished with 11 points, five rebounds and a steal.
“It’s fun, just the style of play that we try to incorporate every time in the game,” Honor said. “My job is the point guard. That’s what I plan to do every game moving forward, so it’s exciting.”
Midway through the first quarter, the Tigers’ smothering defense forced the Lions into a shot clock violation following an Aidan Shaw block that displayed the length and versatility of the Mizzou defense. Although the ensuing possession did not result in points, the momentum carried over into a three-point make from Honor less than a minute later.
Building off that success, the Tigers and their full-court pressure forced Lindenwood into calling a timeout right out of a media timeout, emphasizing the strain that Mizzou put into the Lindenwood offense.
Those instances epitomized what would become an evening the Lions would like to forget, as the Lindenwood offense added nine turnovers in the second half, bringing their grand total to 19. Using those miscues as opportunities, the Tigers scored 20 total points off turnovers, including six of their first 11 points of the second half.
“I thought our guys, from a 48-hour turnaround, did a great job,” Gates said.
Despite the overall success, however, the Tigers showcased areas to grow. Before five minutes had even passed in the second half, the foul count for Mizzou read six.
The Tigers totaled 19 team fouls, giving Lindenwood 23 opportunities at the free throw line, which they capitalized on with 18 successful shots. Mizzou, on the other hand, went to the line only eight times, making six of those attempts.
As the game progressed throughout the second half, Mizzou’s emphasis on the post remained evident. The Tigers finished with 50 points in the paint, including nine dunks. Those emphatic slams brought the Mizzou crowd to a thunderous roar each time, but also showed the Tigers’ ability to break out in transition.
Isiaih Mosley, who returned after a one-game absence with four points and three assists, played his first significant minutes of the season, and aided in one of the aforementioned dunks as he lobbed a pass up for the high-flying Shaw for his first slam of the game.
Mizzou tallied 15 fast break points, including five of those points from D’Moi Hodge during a 1:04 period midway through the second half when he scored seven consecutive points to will the Tigers from a 10-point lead to a 15-point advantage. Hodge finished with only nine points, but left his mark on the game with that stretch, which kept the Lindenwood offense at bay.
Using that stretch as momentum, the Tigers outscored Lindenwood 19-5 the rest of the way. Shaw provided the most ferocious of these punches late, delivering a pair of thunderous dunks with 2:29 and 1:06 remaining, respectively, to electrify the home crowd.
Kobe Brown and DeAndre Gholston, who assisted on those slams, added to the third consecutive 20+ assist game of this season. The Tigers finished with 23 assists and 16 turnovers, emphasizing one flaw of their game that hadn’t been present much before—carelessness with the ball. Gates didn’t seem too worried about it afterwards, though.
“I love the fact that we are being unselfish,” Gates said.
Not to be outdone by Shaw, however, Ben Sternberg, who had just stepped onto the court for the first time all game, drilled a half-court shot at the closing buzzer to put a cap on a dominant showing against a new in-state rival.
“I thought that shot, the response from our crowd, that was probably one of the loudest moments of today’s game,” Gates said. “Whenever you can be on the other side of creating energy, that’s a reward.”
Mizzou continues its opening stretch of home non-conferences matchups, facing SIUE on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The Tigers will look to build off of their first 3-0 start since the 2020-2021 season, and build upon their successful defensive campaigns of this young season.