KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Marcus Denmon scored 26 points, Phil Pressey added 17 and No. 21 Missouri used a big run spanning halftime to knock off Notre Dame 87-58 on Monday night in the semifinals of the CBE Classic.
Ricardo Ratliffe added 12 points and Kim English had 10 for the Tigers (4-0), who shot 63.3 percent from the field while building a 52-37 lead by halftime. Missouri scored the first six points out of the break to put the game away early, punching its ticket to the championship game.
Missouri, making its fourth appearance in the tournament, will play No. 20 California or Georgia on Tuesday night. The Tigers last won the event in 2001, when it was called the Guardians Classic.
Tim Abromaitis returned from a four-game suspension to score 22 points with seven rebounds for Notre Dame. Scott Martin added 12 points, the only other player in double figures.
Playing just a couple hours’ drive from its campus in Columbia, the Tigers had the decided home-court advantage at the Sprint Center and they gave their fans plenty of reasons to cheer.
They hit their first four shots, at one point in the first half had six assists to zero turnovers, and put together their highest-scoring half of the season with 3:10 left in the first.
The Irish (4-1) struggled to slow down the Tigers’ four-guard offense, which pressured them mercilessly on defense and turned just about every turnover into a fast-break basket at the other end.
Denmon made everything happen, scoring on an assortment of runners, fadeaway jumpers and spot-up 3-pointers in a virtuoso performance. He scored seven straight for the Tigers during one stretch in the first half, putting Notre Dame in an early double-digit hole.
Notre Dame tried to mount a comeback behind Abromaitis, who was forced to sit out the first four games of the season because of a misunderstanding that concerned his eligibility.
The fifth-year senior had played in two exhibition games as a sophomore before redshirting, but under NCAA bylaws, those games meant that he exhausted that season’s eligibility. Notre Dame appealed and Abromaitis was granted an extra year, but he was forced to sit out the first four games.
The veteran forward’s three-point play with 5:27 left in the first half got the Irish within 37-29, and his bucket a couple of minutes later trimmed the lead to 42-35.
That’s when the Tigers went on their 16-2 run spanning halftime.
English started it with a 3-pointer, Pressey converted a three-point play moments later and Denmon hit a jumper to make it 50-35. Abromaitis made a couple free throws to briefly halt the run before halftime, but the Tigers picked up right where they left off.
Denmon scored right out of the break, Michael Dixon added a basket and Ratliffe’s bucket with 17:29 left made it 58-37 and prompted Notre Dame coach Mike Brey to call a timeout.
The senior-laden Tigers put it on cruise control after that, preventing the Irish from starting 5-0 for the third straight season. Eight players managed to score, and the Tigers wound up shooting 58.2 percent from the field with a 35-23 rebounding advantage.
Copyright Associated Press