Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy knew his team was in for a challenge against No. 13 Missouri on Friday night.
Often employing waves of substitutions by switching out the entire team during timeouts, the Demons tried to wear down the Tigers. But Northwestern State wasn't able to keep pace with Missouri's four-guard lineup, falling behind early and losing 90-56.
"It is what it is," McConathy said. "We're a team coming in here trying to find ourself, develop ourself. We've got some young guys with a couple of older guys and we just got to build on it and learn to hustle harder and play harder than the team that we're playing. So we've got to learn that from it. If we do that, hopefully we'll be able to be competitive in our league."
James Hulbin led the Demons (4-4) with 14 points. Demetrice Jacobs and Louis Ellis added 10 apiece, while William Mosley had eight points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
"I just had to attack more," Mosley said. "That's something I've been trying to do the whole year, but they have pretty good size on them and it was tough, but I just play hard."
Marcus Denmon scored a career-high 31 points for Missouri. Despite his team winning its first seven games by an average of 28 points, Denmon insisted the Tigers aren't satisfied.
"We've done some things well, but we're still a hungry group," Denmon said. "I feel that starting off 7-0 is good, but it's something that we want to build on as a team. It's not something that we're satisfied with at all."
Michael Dixon also set a career high with 19 points and Ricardo Ratliffe matched his personal best with 22 on 10-of-11 shooting. The Tigers are off to their best start since winning their first nine games during the 2006-07 season.
Missouri used runs of 18-0 and 24-8 to take control. Denmon became the first Tigers player to score 30 points in a game since 2009.
"My teammates were finding me in open spots," Denmon said. "I take those shots every day in practice. I continue to work on them, and tonight they were falling for me."
Asked if he practiced the alley-oop and ensuing free throw that capped his scoring, Denmon smiled and said, "Maybe like once every now and then."
First-year Missouri coach Frank Haith said Wednesday his team planned to attack Mosley, who led the nation last season with 154 blocks and was third this season with 26 through seven games. Despite starting four guards, the Tigers did just that, outscoring the Demons 50-22 in the paint and outrebounding Northwestern State 43-33.
"There's a lot of great numbers in the ballgame that excite me, but one that really excited me the most was we had 50 points in the paint," Haith said. "And I think that, even though we shoot the ball really well, that balance is extremely important for our success, our ability to play inside-out."
Missouri, which leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage, made 12 of its first 17 shots and shot 55 percent for the game, three percentage points better than its season average.
"I think they were pressing and they were trying to speed us up," Ratliffe said. "But we have really good guards and if you try to press them, then more than likely they will beat the press."
Missouri built a 29-6 lead with 12:37 remaining in the first half after an 18-0 run over 4 1/2 minutes. The Tigers were then able to push the lead to 57-31 at halftime.
Missouri picked up where it left off after the break, scoring the first 11 points during a 24-8 surge to push the lead to 45 with 11:52 left, its largest margin of the game.
"They were really good and they're going to be a difficult team for people to play because people are going to think, outsiders think well they're not that big," McConathy said. "They're big enough because they know how to play basketball."
Despite its hot start, the Tigers have been struggling to fill Mizzou Arena. But a $5 ticket promotion combined with Missouri players tweeting about small crowd sizes this past week led to a season-high announced attendance of 12,252 on Friday.
"Our fans were outstanding," Haith said. "Having that sixth man is nice to have. That's one of the reasons why I'm here."
Northwestern State, picked to win the East Division of the Southland Conference, fell to 0-2 against Missouri. In the teams' only previous meeting on Nov. 20, 2005, the Tigers won 81-72 in Columbia. That victory sparked a 63-game winning streak over nonconference opponents at home, which Missouri extended Friday.