Missouri freshman guard Keon Lawrence was all smiles and full of words after the Tigers 78-71 win over Baylor on Wednesday night.
Lawrence had good reason to be cheerful. He had just scored a career-high 24 points, making him the first Missouri freshman guard to score 20 points since Kareem Rush scored 20 against Kansas in 2000. After the game, he just couldn’t stop talking.
"I just thought I had to come out and help the team a lot after that home loss against KU," Lawrence said. "I felt really bad because I didn’t think I played the way I could really play. So I came out this game and just tried to play."
Lawrence held true to his words playing an outstanding game. He grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, dished out two assists, and blocked two shots as well. It was Lawrence’s fourth double-digit game in the last five contests.
"I think that’s because he’s healthy now," Mizzou coach Mike Anderson said. "…we’ve played quite a few games and so maybe the experience factor and knowing and understanding. Not only that, what we expect of him but his teammates. Knowing where they’re at on the floor."
Stefhon Hannah was also instrumental in the Tigers second win in three games. The junior point guard scored a team-high 25 points.
But it wasn’t easy for the Tigers. After opening the second half with a 14-6 run and leading by as much as 14 points, Missouri allowed the young Baylor squad to rally back. The Bears went on a 17-3 run of their own, tying the game at 63-63 on a Kevin Rogers (27 points, 12 rebounds) jumper with just under six minutes to play.
Marshall Brown made sure the game didn’t stay tied for very long nailing two free throws to put MU back on top 65-63. Hannah followed with one of his four 3-pointers to put Mizzou up five and Baylor never got closer than three after that.
It was a good win for Missouri who has been prone to late-game collapses this season.
"They had an opportunity in a close game and they pulled it out there in the end," Anderson said. "I saw calmness, and as a coach that’s what you want. When we’ve faced adversity, we haven’t responded that way. The only way you’re going to build some confidence is you’re going to win, and you have to win those kind of games where you don’t play great."