Insider’s Practice Report: Missouri

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak

The second they took the floor at the Sprint Center this afternoon, the Missouri Tigers started talking. And they didn’t stop talking until their 40-minute practice window ended. “Let’s be crisp this whole time,” Kim English told his teammates at the very beginning. “No mistakes.” With a top seed in the NCAA Tournament on the line this weekend and a potential Border War finale with Kansas on Saturday, the Tigers can’t afford to lose focus. They vocally encouraged each other and practiced with great tempo, completing each drill with a purpose and running from spot to spot with a hop in their steps.

Ever The Comedians, Missouri Joked Its Way Through Practice

Of course, whenever they caught a free moment, the Tigers became comedians. As Marcus Denmon worked on throwing a hail mary/long release pass off an inbounds play at the baseline, he likened himself to Peyton Manning. English started singing. Michael Dixon pretended to shoot a game-winning three with nobody covering him, and assistant Tim Fuller caught slack for throwing a terrible pass in a drill. Frank Haith actually had to use a few choice words at one point to settle his team down, and he urged them not to take this Big 12 Tournament for granted. “I emphasize this to the guys all the time: some players have unlaced their shoes for good already,” Haith said after practice. “The Big 12 Championship is a priority.”

The practice only reached moderate intensity in the final few minutes, when Haith ran a defensive shell drill. Listen to the communication by each defender:

For most of the 40 minutes, though, Missouri worked on inbounds plays and a few other sets. The Tigers never worked against any defensive looks, but they ran through a play called “Kentucky.” Watch Phil Pressey use a ball screen from Ricardo Ratliffe and find Denmon cutting to the wing:

The Tigers also worked on “Swing,” which involved a dribble handoff to Denmon and an off-ball screen for the passer, freeing him in the corner. At this point, though, there’s not a whole lot Missouri needs to fix. Plus, the Tigers won’t need any extra motivation in the Sprint Center, where it defeated Cal and Notre Dame by a combined 58 points in the CBE Classic in November. Perhaps it’s the Kansas City roots on this team that make the difference– Denmon, Dixon, Steve Moore and Jarrett Sutton are all from the Kansas City area. There’s an honorary member, too. “I’m from K.C. deep down,” English said.

MU awaits the winner of tonight’s opening round game between Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, which means it could not prepare for a specific opponent today. “It’s been a little different but I definitely think we’re prepared,” Denmon said. “We’ve just prepared evenly for both teams.” But after everything its been through, there’s nothing this senior class can’t prepare for. From the Mike Anderson saga to the Nevin Shapiro scandal to the Laurence Bowers injury, the Tigers are in a remarkable position right now. English said the Bowers’ injury was a turning point. “That was the moment when stuff got real,” he said. Missouri already fought through that adversity to win 27 games in the regular season. Now, it must win three more– and six more after that– to accomplish all of its goals.

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