POPLAR BLUFF - The Poplar Bluff Mules basketball team has traveled the country in search of quality competition and has even been featured on ESPN2 for a nationally televised game.
The Sikeston Bulldogs found out first-hand why the Mules have been a hot commodity this year as they fell victim 79-49 on homecoming night in Poplar Bluff.
Poplar Bluff's 6-foot-9 McDonald's All-American candidate Tyler Hansbrough made his return after missing a few games with an injured toe.
He showed no ill effects as he pumped in 32 points while showing no signs of fatigue in a full four quarters of action. He had 24 points at the half, most of which came on an assortment of dunks and conventional 3-point plays.
"He looked a little fat and out of shape to me," joked Poplar Bluff coach John David Pattillo. "He came in and had a pretty good game. You could tell there was times he was winded and tired. We got him out and got other guys that have been playing pretty well and they got in there and got after it so it worked out good."
The game was never in question as the Mules raced out to a 24-2 lead. They led 28-8 after one quarter with 25 of the 28 points being scored by either Hansbrough or his younger brother, Ben Hansbrough.
Ben, a 6-4 junior, had 19 points. No other Mule reached double figures.
"We came out and we were a little intimidated by their size," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "Bad shot selections and we didn't play very well. But you have to give them credit. Tyler gets a lot of recognition, which he deserves, but they've got a good supporting cast too."
The Mules (17-4, 5-0 SEMO Conference) continued to pour it on in the second quarter as they built a 50-17 halftime lead.
Sikeston was just 6-of-35 (17 percent) from the field in the first half.
Pattillo thought his deep bench played a part in the Bulldogs' poor shooting.
"I think being able to change our rotation, getting some kids in and out in there," said Pattillo. "They got a little winded and we ran 10 guys in and out of there early and so I think it takes your legs out from under you a little bit. We keyed on just a couple of things. Mainly it was trying to stay up the line and play hard defensively. When we did that, everything else worked out."
But the Bulldogs, helped by Pattillo's liberal substituting, actually out-scored the Mules in the second half.
Five-foot-11 senior Bulldog Tyler Woodson scored six of his career-high 15 points in the third quarter, including a one-handed jam on a fast break.
The clock ran the entire fourth quarter due to the mercy rule.
Sikeston junior Rod Moore added 11 points off the bench with six rebounds.
Leading scorer Kash Bratcher was held scoreless, but he dished out six assists.
Tyler Hansbrough added 12 rebounds while Ben had five steals.
The older Hansbrough has signed to play at the University of North Carolina next year.
"They are really a good squad and they've got a great player," said Holifield. "He's as good as anybody in the Midwest, that's for sure. I think a lot of times what people don't understand is they have a great coach in Coach Pattillo. I've coached against him for years and I've always thought he was a great coach and I don't think he gets the recognition he deserves. His teams always play extremely hard and they're always fundamentally sound. They're going to go a long ways because they have a great player, a good team and a great coach."
Sikeston has now lost four straight to fall to 7-11 on the season and 1-5 in the SEMO Conference.
The Bulldogs will host Oran on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The Sikeston JV team fell to 5-10 on the season and 1-5 in league play with a 52-46 loss to Poplar Bluff (14-3, 5-0).
Sikeston led 11-10 after one quarter but trailed every quarter thereafter. Poplar Bluff led 24-19 at the half and 38-34 heading into the fourth.
Sikeston was led by Tarryl Booker's 15 points. Brujae Lane followed up with nine points and four rebounds. Cortne Beasley had nine steals.
Poplar Bluff got 20 points from T.J. Stonecipher and 10 points from Phillip Brown.