Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Missouri 92, California 53
By Jason King
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Here’s a quick recap of Missouri’s 92-53 victory over Cal in the championship game of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center.
How it happened: For the second straight night, Missouri was glaringly quicker, faster and more athletic than its opponent. Pestered by the Tigers’ menacing defense, Cal committed 19 turnovers and shot just 30 percent from the field. A slew of those missed shots led to easy baskets by Mizzou, which beat the Golden Bears down the court time and time again. Frank Haith’s squad led 45-26 at intermission, and the Tigers didn’t let up in the second half. Cal defensive stopper Jorge Gutierrez fouled out with 10 minutes remaining after trying unsuccessfully to slow down the MU guards.
Star of the game: Some of his teammates had gaudier stat lines, but reserve forward Steve Moore drew the loudest applause at the Sprint Center. Moore scored a season-high 10 points off the bench and provided a huge boost down low for a Tigers’ squad that is undersized. Moore also blocked three shots. Still, as good as Moore was Tuesday, the best player on the court was Missouri guard Kim English, who finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
What this means: Missouri is legit, as in top-10 legit. No team in the Big 12, and not many teams in the country, have looked so crisp and cohesive this early in the season. Mizzou's first three wins -- actually, the first four if you count Notre Dame -- were against low-level opponents. But Tuesday’s win came against an 18th-ranked Cal squad led by brilliant coach Mike Montgomery -- a team that many believe is the best in the Pac-12. Granted, Missouri has an advantage in that it returns a number of veterans (English, Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe, Michael Dixon) from last year’s 23-win team. But this is also a squad that went through a coaching change during the offseason. Teams in those situations usually take a step back before they take a step forward. That’s clearly not the case in Columbia.
Even after Tuesday’s tail-whipping, it’s still probably safe to tag California as the top team in the Pac-12, although that certainly doesn’t say much for the league. Even Montgomery admitted Cal won’t face a conference team as talented as the Tigers. These Bears still have a chance to be very, very good. Just not as good as Missouri.
What’s next: Mizzou has what should be two easy home wins against Binghamton and Northwestern State before taking on Villanova Dec. 6 as part of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. Cal won’t face another school from a BCS conference until it opens league play Dec. 29 against USC.