No. 12 Missouri 102, SC State 51

Jabari Brown understandably felt nervous Monday night.

Playing in his first game since Nov. 17, 2011, when he was a
freshman at Oregon, Brown scored 12 points, helping No. 12 Missouri
beat South Carolina State 102-51.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard became eligible at the end of the
first semester. He entered the game with 16:01 left in the first
half. After a missed 3-pointer, he assisted on a fast-break layup
by Negus Webster-Chan. He scored his first points on two free
throws with 9:35 remaining.

”It felt weird having a lot of people cheer for me,” Brown
said. ”But I felt good.”

Alex Oriakhi said his new teammate is more than just a great
shooter on the court.

”He’s looking to get other people involved,” Oriakhi said.
”On this team, we have a lot of guys that can score the ball. So
with him being a passer, along with the rest of us, it makes the
team a lot more comfortable to play with each other.”

Missouri (9-1) didn’t need Brown on Monday.

Phil Pressey’s jumper 17 seconds into the game gave the Tigers
the lead for good. An 18-2 run midway through the first half
provided the team with a 31-11 lead with 5:58 left.

Despite not playing for nine days, the Tigers scored 49 points
in the first half, representing the team’s best this season.

Missouri had been shooting 39.6 percent in the opening half for
the season before its 18-for-33 performance Monday.

The team did better in the second half, adding 53 points on
23-of-39 shooting, helping Missouri reach the 100-point mark for
the first time since Dec. 15, 2011.

”We haven’t been putting two halves together and we have been
struggling with starting games off well,” Keion Bell said. ”So
just to see the guys come ready to play and just play with
intensity was something I wanted to see in our team.”

Matthew Hezekiah led South Carolina State (4-7) with 14 points
and 12 rebounds. His six points were the only scoring by the
Bulldogs in a 12-minute stretch in the first half, helping Missouri
build its early lead.

Khalif Toombs and Louis Adams, who have combined for 28.1 points
per game this season, added a total of 14 points after only
contributing 13 in the team’s last game against Albany.

”We were supposed to slow the game down,” Hezekiah said.
”They got us out of that and they kept running and scoring and we
couldn’t stop team.”

South Carolina State, picked to finish last in the preseason
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preseason poll, is already one win
shy of matching its total of last season, when it finished 5-26
overall and 0-16 in conference.

Despite having a minus-7.2 rebounding margin against its last
seven opponents, all of them from non-BCS conferences, the Bulldogs
hung in there on the glass in the first half, getting outrebounded
23-19 by the third-ranked rebounding team in the country. But
Missouri expanded the margin in the second half, outrebounding the
Bulldogs 25-15.

Coach Tim Carter said that he thought his team had improved
game-by-game until Monday.

”They ran us out of everything we tried to do,” he said.
”Everything. They did a great job. We had no answer for anything
that they did tonight, no answer.”

Earnest Ross’ 16 points led five Tigers who scored in
double-figures, while Oriakhi grabbed 11 rebounds. Laurence Bowers
added 11 points, giving him 1,001 for his career, becoming the 44th
Missouri player to reach the 1,000-point plateau.

”I know one thing, I’m very honored to have had an opportunity
to coach him,” coach Frank Haith said of Bowers. ”The young man
has really worked hard to get his game to where it is, and he’s
going to score a lot more points.”

Missouri plays No. 10 Illinois on Saturday in St. Louis in the
teams’ annual Braggin’ Rights Game, having won the last three.

When Bell and Oriakhi were asked about playing for the first
time in the usually raucous environment the series provides, Haith
interrupted, saying, ”Just let me answer that, I’ve never seen
that. So a neutral-court game with that kind of atmosphere, surely
they wouldn’t ever have seen that either.”