CANCUN, MEXICO - No. 11 Missouri turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to win the Cancun Challenge championship over La Salle, 83-71, on Wednesday night at the Aventura Spa and Resort.
Senior Ruben Guillandeaux and junior Earl Pettis each had 13 points to pace the Explorers, while freshman Tyreek Duren and Jerrell Williams added 12 for La Salle.
“There’s no question we got fatigued,” Explorers coach John Giannini said, “and there’s no question we played better in the first 20 minutes than the second.”
La Salle (4-2) matched the Tigers’ frenetic pace in the first half and the teams headed to the locker rooms tied at 41-41. Missouri (4-0) went on an 11-0 run midway through the second half and never looked back to capture the four-team Mayan Division title.
“We would have loved to play better against Missouri,” Giannini said. “But I think we took a step forward beating Providence (on Tuesday) and putting together probably 25 good minutes of basketball tonight.”
Guillandeaux and Aaric Murray (nine points, 11 rebounds) represented the Explorers on the All-Tournament team.
“I thought we played with them for a half,” Guillandeaux said. “I have to credit them. They are relentless defensively and they are a really good team.”
Missouri’s Marcus Denmon, who led all scorers with 21 points, was named the Cancun Challenge MVP.
La Salle matched its nationally-ranked opponents blow for blow for the first 20 minutes. The Explorers led by eight points at 18-10 after six minutes of play but the Tigers went on an 11-2 run to take the lead.
La Salle scored the final five points of the first half, including a three-pointer by freshman Sam Mills.
The Tigers wore down La Salle in the second half with its quick pace. The Explorers held their last lead at 53-52 on a jumper by Murray with 14:03 to play. Missouri scored the next 11 points to take a lead it would not relinquish.
Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe had 14 points and 14 rebounds to join Denmon on the All-Tournament team.
La Salle was hurt by 19 turnovers, while Missouri committed just six.
The Explorers' next game will be against Delaware State at Tom Gola Arena on Monday at 7:00 p.m.