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Missouri runs a defense that is Razorback sharp

When Nolan Richardson was coaching at Arkansas in the 1990s, he adopted an up-tempo playing style that overwhelmed worn-down opponents and called it "40 Minutes of Hell."

Former long-time Richardson assistant Mike Anderson has a different name for the frenetic way his Missouri team plays. It's called "The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball."

"It's very similar," said Anderson, who spent 17 years on Richardson's Arkansas staff, "but I think we do some things, no question about it, a little different."

The main goal of Richardson's teams was to outrun and outscore you. His 1994 national championship Razorbacks averaged 93.4 points per game and allowed 75.6. Anderson's Tigers average 77.6 points per game this season, but yield just 65.8.

A team can't score if it doesn't have the ball, and few teams do a better job of taking the ball away than 10th-seeded Missouri (22-10), which meets No. 7 seed Clemson (21-10) in a first-round East Regional game Friday at HSBC Arena.

Using its full-court pressure defense, Missouri leads the nation with 10.9 steals per game. It forces 19.7 turnovers per contest and ranks second nationally with a plus-6.7 turnover margin.

"We want to create havoc on defense," said Anderson, who also played and coached under Richardson at Tulsa.

The Tigers' halfcourt defense can be just as frustrating as they allow opponents to shoot just 40.9 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent from three-point range.

Teams that face Missouri regularly in the Big 12 Conference know how difficult it is to prepare for the Tigers' all-out, don't-stop-til-they-drop defense.

"I think it's difficult for everybody," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "We try to duplicate it in practice by going against six or seven guys. But those kids are brought up in practice playing that style. They're smart with it. It is hard to play against."

Three years after inheriting a mess created by the scandal-ridden tenure of Quin Snyder, Anderson led Missouri to a school-record 31 wins, the Big 12 Tournament championship and a surprising NCAA Tournament run that ended with an appearance in the Elite Eight last season.

Unlike Richardson, who brought in big-time scorers and high school All-Americans like Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman, Anderson wins with unheralded players who are athletic, smart and won't back down to anyone.

"Coming into college, some people are ranked All-American and some people aren't," senior guard Zaire Taylor told the Kansas City Star recently. "Some people are five stars and some people are three. I don't know what kind of stars I had. I never saw myself ranked on any kind of top 100. But I know that if you put somebody in front of me, they can be No. 1, 2 or 3. Me and him are going to go at it."



FIRST ROUND: Tipoff: Approx. 2:45 p.m., Friday, HSBC Arena • TV: Ch.4 • Latest line: Clemson (-1 1/2 ) Fast fact: This will be just the third meeting between Clemson and Missouri, the first since 1996-97.

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