Matched up against the area's tallest player, Poplar Bluff's 6-foot-9 inch Tyler Hansbrough, and a team where their guards are taller than the Bulldog post players, needless to say Sikeston had their work cut out for them.
But the Mules proved Hansbrough isn't a one-man show as the team connected on nine 3-pointers on the night to cruise to an 89-64 victory at the Field House.
Hansbrough, largely considered one of the top juniors in the nation, finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in three quarters of action.
With Sikeston's defense focused on containing the big man, the Mules were able to get wide open looks from beyond the arc, hitting 9-of-15 for the game.
Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield indicated that his team just picked its poison.
"They're a great team, in my opinion they're definitely one of the top teams in the state of Missouri," said Holifield. "They have so many weapons and you have to surround Tyler and focus on him so much. But the players surrounding him are just excellent players also. If they're open, they're going to knock the shots down."
Overshadowed by the Mules' performance was the best offensive games of the year by Sikeston sophomore Kash Bratcher and freshman Joe Lincoln, finishing with season-highs of 22 and 20 points, respectively.
Bratcher was 6-of-9 from downtown while Lincoln was 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.
"They played well and they played with confidence," said Holifield. "I was proud of the effort. They knocked down some big shots for us. For a freshman and sophomore to step up against this caliber of a team they really did well."
The Bulldogs actually shot well in the game. But they couldn't stop the Mules' offense, which shot 75 percent from the field in the first half and 61 percent for the game.
The Mules (15-6, 4-0 SEMO Conference) had three other players reach double figures besides Hansbrough.
"We've been getting to the point where we're a little more balanced," said Poplar Bluff head coach John David Pattillo. "People are still running two or three guys around Tyler and that's just spreading everybody out and giving them opportunities to score."
Poplar Bluff never trailed in the game as they raced out to a 9-2 lead. The Bulldogs closed to 15-10 on a Lincoln 3-pointer but the Mules pulled away from there.
Poplar Bluff, which hit five 3-pointers in the opening frame, led 29-17 after one.
Sikeston cut the lead to 32-20 after a Bratcher 3-pointer, but the Mules' inside combo of Hansbrough and 6-foot-8 Ross Whelan combined for 17 points in the paint to take a 49-30 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs were still able to keep the score in the respectable range throughout the third quarter, cutting the lead to 13 on a couple different occasions.
But a Ben Hansbrough conventional 3-point play extended the lead to 68-49 heading into the fourth.
The Mules out-scored Sikeston (4-13, 1-3 SEMO) 21-15 in the fourth quarter.
"Gregg's group did a nice job running some backdoors," said Pattillo. "The big thing is they just jumped up and made some 3s -- made some deep 3s. It looked like we weren't guarding very well. We weren't bad, it's just they jumped up and made some shots."
Ben Hansbrough finished with 14 points and six assists. Anthony Gilberto had 14 points and Whelan added 10 points.
Tyler Woodson had a season-high 10 points for the Bulldogs. Freddie Wiggins had six rebounds and three assists. Drew Cole had a team-high four assists.
"They're always going to get after you," said Pattillo. "They did a nice job of taking care of the basketball. He seems to always have some guys that have ugly shots, and they make shots. I'm sure it's just the fact that Gregg gets them in here and works their tails off and they shoot it so much."
Sikeston will play at Oran on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The Sikeston JV team fell to 10-4 on the season with a 63-60 double overtime loss to Poplar Bluff (11-5, 3-1 SEMO).
The Bulldogs are 1-3 in conference play.
Sikeston led after every quarter but couldn't hold on.
The Bulldogs were led by Trey Spence's 25 points, 15 rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals.
Rod Moore followed up with 21 points and five steals. Julian Beard had eight points with four steals and four assists. Josh Jackson followed up with six points and three assists.