Missouri rolls over North Alabama

Missouri’s Marcus Denmon (right) loses control of the ball as he tries to shoot past North Alabama’s Beaumont Beasley during the second half of Wednesday’s game at Mizzou Arena.

Missouri’s Marcus Denmon (right) loses control of the ball as he tries to shoot past North Alabama’s Beaumont Beasley during the second half of Wednesday’s game at Mizzou Arena. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — With Missouri set to kick off conference play this weekend, Kim English picked a good time to rediscover his shooting stroke.

The junior guard scored a season-high 20 points, all in the first half, and No. 9 Missouri placed seven players in double figures in 98-58 victory Wednesday night over Division II North Alabama.

Justin Safford and Laurence Bowers added 16 points each for Missouri (14-1), which has won 57 straight nonconference home games. The Tigers, off to the program’s best start in 21 years, travel Saturday to Colorado for their first Big 12 game.

Beaumont Beasley scored 13 points for North Alabama (6-9), Missouri’s first regular-season Division II opponent since 1996.

English was Missouri’s leading scorer as a sophomore with a 14-point average, but entered the game fifth in scoring this season on a more balanced team.

He went 6-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half — a career high — but missed his only three shots in the second half as coach Mike Anderson featured his reserves. Five of English’s six baskets from long range came in the final four minutes of the half.

“We have so many people who can carry the load on any given day,” Bowers said.

English called his performance “just another day.” Like Bowers, he suggested opposing teams will have a hard time keying defensively on any particular Tiger.

“The open man is the go-to guy every night,” English said. “That’s the luxury of our team.”

Missouri had a 61-33 rebounding edge over the smaller Lions. The Gulf South Conference team had just one player taller than 6-foot-6.

Safford, Missouri’s lone senior, also set a season high in scoring while adding eight rebounds. Bowers led the Tigers with 11 boards, and freshman Ricky Kreklow had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Ricardo Ratliffe went scoreless, but blocked six shots.

“With this team here, we have a lot of options,” Anderson said. “These guys trust one another.”

Missouri took a double-digit lead before the first TV timeout and led 57-31 at halftime. The Lions converted 7-of-15 3-pointers in the first half before Missouri ratcheted up its defense in the second half.

North Alabama was a relatively late addition to Missouri’s schedule, and both coaches thanked each other for the opportunity — Anderson for a final tuneup before conference play, and North Alabama’s Bobby Champagne for the brief moment in the spotlight, no matter the 40-point drubbing.

“Obviously Missouri is on a different level than we are, but it was a good opportunity for our guys,” he said.

Missouri, one of the top scoring teams in the country at 85.6 points per game before Wednesday, narrowly missed topping 100 points for the third time this season. They shot 46 percent from beyond the arc as a team, tying a season high with 12 3s.

Anderson said he is uncertain when freshman guard Phil Pressey will return after breaking a finger in practice two weeks ago. He also declined to rule out the second-semester addition of 6-foot-8 forward Tony Mitchell, a Dallas prep star considered one of the top recruits in the nation.

Mitchell averaged 20.5 points and 13.2 rebounds last season but didn’t initially graduate with his senior class because of a low score on a state achievement test.

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