Rapid Reaction: Missouri 81, Villanova 71
December, 6, 2011
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- Here’s a quick take on Missouri’s 81-71 victory over Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
What it means: Missouri, the No. 10-ranked team in the country, continues its impressive start to the season. The Tigers are 8-0 for the first time since 2006-07, and have to be considered a serious threat to win the Big 12 title this season.
Villanova, picked to finish eighth in the Big East in the conference’s preseason coaches' poll, falls to 5-3 on the season. It’s the first time the Wildcats have lost three games before New Year’s Day since 2002-03.
The skinny: Villanova hung with Missouri for the first 13 minutes – the game was tied at 21 with 6:48 remaining in the first half. But then shots started dropping for the Tigers. A 12-2 run from that point put Missouri comfortably in front, and the Tigers led 42-29 at intermission.
Missouri’s Marcus Denmon opened the second half with a 3-pointer, one of four treys the Tigers connected on before we even reached the first media timeout. Villanova did put up a fight, going on a 10-0 run to cut its deficit from 61-45 to 61-55, but that’s as close as the Wildcats got. Missouri held off Villanova down the stretch.
Shooting star: You’ll be hearing a lot more about Denmon the rest of the season, if he keeps playing as well as he is right now. Coming off a career-high 31 points against Northwestern State on Friday, the 6-foot-3 senior poured in 28 against Villanova, shooting 10-for-16 from the field and 6-for-10 from 3-point range.
Ricardo Ratliffe chipped in 17 points and 11 boards for Missouri. Villanova was led by Maalik Wayns, with 14 points. The Wildcats had five players in double figures.
Number crunch: Missouri came in ranked fifth in the country in field goal percentage, shooting 52.5 percent from the field as a team. The Tigers were well under that number on Tuesday night, shooting 28-for-66 (42.4 percent). But they made 10 of 25 from downtown (40 percent), and 15 of 18 from the foul line (83.3 percent).
The Tigers, the shortest team among the power six conferences this season, also had a 14-13 advantage on the offensive glass. And they had 23 assists on their 28 field goals -- 12 of them by sophomore point guard Phil Pressey.
What’s next: Missouri will host Navy on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. Villanova plays at Temple on Saturday, also at 5 p.m. ET.