COLUMBIA, Mo. — Dennis Gates got his wish.
A week before Missouri’s basketball season tipped off, the first-year head coach said he wanted to see his team respond the first time centerpiece player Kobe Brown picked up early fouls.
“I need to wish for other things,” he joked Tuesday night.
That’s because, sure enough, less than two minutes into Mizzou’s visit from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Brown was whistled for his second foul. The preseason All-Southeastern Conference forward headed to the bench for the rest of the half, just the setback that crippled the Tigers several times last season.
Sparked by D’Moi Hodge’s shooting outburst, Mizzou put its scoring balance and unselfishness on display again, cruising past the Cougars 105-80 at Mizzou Arena, MU’s highest-scoring game in more than a decade.
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Hodge, a transfer guard who followed Gates here from Cleveland State, poured in 30 points, the most for a Missouri player since Brown scored the same last season against Alabama. It was the kind of prolific night Gates regularly saw from Hodge the past two seasons in Cleveland, where he posted four 30-point games and once reached 46. But the scoring only defined one part of Hodge’s game Tuesday: He also led MU with seven rebounds and four steals and added three assists in 27 minutes without a single turnover. He pulled down a team-high five offensive boards, finished with nine defensive stops and earned the team’s best defensive rating, at 91.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Gates first offered the Virgin Islands native a scholarship when he was an assistant at Florida State. Tuesday’s complete performance explained why.
“He plays both sides of the basketball,” Gates said. “I do think there’s a level of talent, and I’m not afraid to say this out loud or say it to him: He’s a guy that can play in the NBA. Because he’s a piece of a puzzle. He can catch and shoot, and he can play on the (defensive) side of the basketball. He’s one of the better shot-blocking guards that I’ve seen.”
“This was just an OK game,” Gates added. “I thought he missed open shots. I’m not happy that he’s missing open shots.”
He didn’t miss many. Hodge shot 11 of 19 from the floor and 4 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc. It was his last bucket that Hodge and his teammates clearly enjoyed most — and one that underscored his familiarity and comfort with his head coach. Sitting at 28 points with five minutes left, Hodge told Gates he wanted to stay in the game until he reached 30. Gates obliged.
“He would have been mad at me for two weeks if I didn’t leave him in,” Gates said.
When Hodge soared through the lane for his final field goal with 4:19 left, Mizzou’s bench erupted and celebrated with Hodge until the game resumed for the next possession.
“They were more happy for me than I was myself,” Hodge said.
The moment prompted Gates to apologize to junior forward Noah Carter in the locker room after the game. Why? When Carter scored 28 points in Friday’s win over Penn, he didn’t lobby for Gates to keep him in the game to score 30. He didn’t know he could, Gates said.
“D’Moi played for me already. He knows what he can say and not … and Noah was just trying to be respectful in the moment,” Gates said. “But I said, ‘Noah, now you know how to talk to me. You have to tell me those things. I can’t read your mind.’”
With Tuesday’s win, Mizzou became the first SEC team to reach four victories, and the 4-0 start is just the fourth for MU this decade, albeit against a soft lineup of low- to mid-major conference foes through the season’s first week. Still, the Tigers continued to flaunt their offensive depth. In their highest-scoring game since 2010, four more players scored in double figures, including Brown, who scored 12 in just eight minutes. Sean East II added 14 points and five assists, while Tre Gomillion and Isiaih Mosley both scored 10.
Mizzou’s 105 points were the team’s most since a 116-63 victory over Central Arkansas on Dec. 18, 2010. The Tigers shot a season-high 59.7% from the field and for the fourth straight game tallied at least 20 assists, finishing with 22 Coming into the night, Mizzou was the only Division I team with three 20-assist games this season. The Tigers hadn’t logged 20 assists in three straight games since the 2011-12 season, when Frank Haith guided the nation’s most efficient offensive team to 30 victories.
As well as Hodge played, Gates was especially pleased with Mosley’s performance. He benched him last Friday, then played the Missouri State transfer just 14 minutes on Sunday against Lindenwood. On Tuesday, he unleashed Mosley on the Cougars. Mosley scored all five of his field goals inside the 3-point arc, including an unguardable turnaround jumper on the low block. Later in the first half, Mosley ducked under the basket for a reverse double-handed scoop shot and a play later swatted SIUE’s Jalen Hodge at the rim.
“In four games, I hadn’t seen that block,” Gates said. “D’Moi may have had a block. Aidan Shaw possibly had a tip block. But that was a very high-level block out of nowhere for a guard.”
Gates continued to insist Mosley’s game transcends the high-volume shooting and scoring he mastered at Missouri State. Against Lindenwood, Gates said Mosley had 14 to 15 assist attempts — passes to teammates that put them directly in position to score.
On a night when one sidekick emerged as Mizzou’s latest go-to player, Mosley showed glimpses of having the same potential.
“(Scoring) is not important to him,” Gates said. “What’s important to him is to show everyone that he can play both sides of the basketball because the load offensively isn’t just going to be on his shoulders. … I think it’s important for us to all analyze it and give that young man a pat on the back because his level of unselfishness is probably wider and more distant than anybody because of what he was able to do the last two years and what he’s accepting right now.”
Photos: Mizzou men’s basketball team routes SIU Edwardsville