Missouri basketball rides dominant start to 36-point victory over Houston Christian

L.G. Patterson/AP

It took Missouri 3 minutes and 22 seconds to take a double-digit lead on Saturday. It took Houston Christian 4 minutes and 54 seconds to score a point.

Missouri crossed the 20-point mark with 14:22 to play in the first half. Houston Christian scored its first field goal at 12:40.

So went Saturday’s game, as Missouri opened the contest by scoring the first 16 points. From the first 78 seconds — when Noah Carter scored and then assisted a Kobe Brown three-pointer — to the second half — in which Missouri led by 20-plus for the entirety and even went up 40 at one point — the undefeated Tigers (7-0) were never in danger of adding a blemish to their perfect record against the now-1-6 Huskies.

Final score: Missouri 105, Houston Christian 69.

Now the fun begins.

Missouri has played what could be described as a soft schedule to open the year, having faced only one top-200 opponent (No. 180/175 Penn) as ranked by KenPom.com and BartTorvik.com, two popular college basketball rankings sites.

The result: The Tigers have built confidence on the offensive end of the floor, scorching the nets for 93.3 points per game. And their defense has shown signs of growth, with that side of the ball sparking a run against Mississippi Valley State and completely shutting down both Lindenwood (53 points vs. Missouri, 26.8% shooting) and Coastal Carolina (51 points, 24.6%).

On Saturday, transfer guard DeAndre Gholston scored a Missouri-career-best 22 points with four assists, three rebounds and two steals, while Kobe Brown chipped in with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting, plus two rebounds. Missouri’s starting five combined to shoot 29 of 42 (69%) from the field while holding Houston Christian to 25-for-56 shooting (44.6%) and forcing 23 turnovers.

In the first half, Missouri’s defense was even more dominant. The Huskies opened the game shooting 0-for-7 with five turnovers before scoring their first basket. They scored 30 points in the first half and trailed by 24 at the break.

At 7-0, the Tigers are off to their best start since the 2013-14 season in which they won their first 10 contests. Game No. 8 in the 2022-23 campaign, however, will be the first real test for the Tigers against a top-100 opponent.

Missouri will travel to face Wichita State on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Then, after a one-game reset against Southeast Missouri State, the Tigers will have a top-10 test vs. Kansas, which will begin a stretch of four ranked opponents in five contests for the Tigers from Dec. 10 to Jan. 4.

Those contests will challenge Dennis Gates’ Missouri squad in ways it hasn’t been thus far. But amidst the chaos of a college basketball season in which three of the top-six teams in the country (No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Kansas and No. 6 Gonzaga) fell on Friday, the Tigers will have no complaints with how they’ve handled each opponent to date.