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January 22, 2011
Prior to Missouri's game against Iowa State, Mike Anderson lavished praise upon Diante Garrett.
"Diante Garrett is one of the better guards in our league. I think one of the better guards in the country," Anderson said. "He has size, he handles the basketball, he's scoring at a pretty good clip for them now."
There was ample evidence to support the claims. Garrett came into the game fifth in the Big 12, averaging 17.9 points per game. He had three times scored at least 25 and had been held below double digits just once, scoring nine in a win over Virginia.
But in an 87-54 thrashing on Saturday night, Missouri's defense made Garrett look like something well short of one of the nation's best in the backcourt. The Cyclone senior made only three of his 17 shots and scored a season-low six points.
"Wearing him down," Mike Dixon Jr. said. "We just stayed after him. He called up screens and I'd try to get up and pressure him before the screen came. We made him do a lot of running. And my teammates and everybody, we made him work a lot on defense as well We just wore him down."
That would be an accurate statement for the game as a whole. The Cyclones played just seven players in an overtime loss at Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Snow then forced the team to spend an extra night in Oklahoma. The Clones have been undermanned all season, but had never lost a game by more than nine points before Saturday.
"That's an excuse," Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said of both the lack of depth and the travel issues. "Diante is a unique player that can play every minute of every game. I never worry about his minutes."
But by the end of the outing, Garrett was on the bench next to Hoiberg, watching the Tigers put the finishing touches on the fourth-most lopsided victory in the 230-game history between the teams. Missouri forced the Clones into just 27% shooting for the night.
"Defensively, I thought we came out with a lot of energy," Anderson said. "They're a three-point shooting team and I thought our rotation and closing out was probably the best it could be."
The Clones came in hitting 39.7% of their three-pointers as a team and had three players shooting 46% or better behind the arc. But the Clones' offensive problems didn't end once they crossed the three-point line. Ricardo Ratliffe had six of Missouri's nine blocks.
"A few times they came in and bobbled the ball off their feet because they jumped," Ratliffe said. "I guess when you get that many blocks, people start to think when they come to the hole, they've got to look over their shoulder."
The Tigers know, however, that tonight was their night. The next time around against Garrett, they may not be quite so fortunate.
"He's a great player," Kim English said. "He just had an off night. Our defense had a lot to do with it, but the next time we play him, he could go off and have a really big night. We just need to take this in stride and be blessed that he didn't have his best night because he's an amazing player."
Of course, Mizzou has more immediate concerns. After a mid-week bye, the Tigers will travel to Austin, Texas to face the only unbeaten team in the conference. The Longhorns are fresh off a 74-63 win at Kansas that ended a 69-game home court winning streak for the Jayhawks.
"You never know in our league. It's a great league and Texas is probably playing as well as anybody in the country," Anderson said. "This is the ultimate challenge."
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