Laurence Bowers came up big for Missouri once again and helped the 12th-ranked Tigers rally from a big deficit.
Bowers scored a career-high 26 points to help Missouri come from 10 points down at halftime in an 81-65 win against Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday night.
”He can do everything,” Keion Bell said. ”His skill set is so diverse that you can’t really come up with a game plan of how to stop him. You can try to contain him. But Laurence, he can just do everything on the floor. He’s a hard, diligent worker, and his hard work is paying off.”
The Tigers trailed for 17 minutes before Bowers made a turnaround jumper to give Missouri a 57-56 lead with 10:56 remaining, part of a stretch of 19 consecutive Tigers points scored by either Bowers or Phil Pressey.
An alley-oop dunk by Bell with 4:16 left stretched Missouri’s lead to 73-62, and the Tigers led comfortably the rest of the way.
Pressey added 17 points for the Tigers (7-1) after making only 3 of 14 shots from the field in the first half, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range. After a missed jumper with 1:10 remaining in the first half, Missouri coach Frank Haith quickly turned his back to the court and slapped his hands in the first of many signs of frustration with his team.
Haith said he needed to remind Pressey to remain poised, as well as saying the junior guard doesn’t need to be the team’s entire offense.
”Teams are going to make shots; people are going to make shots,” Haith said. ”And I thought we rushed things. And Phil’s got to get better at that. Just in terms of the trust factor.
”There may be a night where we want Phil taking 18 shots, but that’s not his game right now.”
Southeast Missouri (6-5) provided its in-state opponent with a scare for the second consecutive year after taking an early lead thanks to eight 3-pointers in the first half. The Redhawks entered the game having won three consecutive games while shooting 27 for 39 on 3s during that stretch. However, they made 1 of 11 from beyond the arc in the second half against the Tigers.
Corey Wilford scored all of his 14 points in the first half to lead the Redhawks, who have played eight of their first 11 games on the road. Nino Johnson and Missouri transfer Tyler Stone both added 13.
Wilford’s drive down the lane for a layup with 4:53 remaining in the first half capped an 8-0 run for the Redhawks, giving them a 38-27 advantage for the team’s largest lead of the game. Missouri answered with six consecutive points, but Southeast Missouri rebounded to make take a 45-35 lead at halftime.
”We didn’t bring it second half,” Stone said. ”First half, we brought it. We came out with the right tenacity. We didn’t bring it second half to be honest.”
Stone is leading Southeast Missouri State in scoring (15.5) for the second consecutive season after transferring from Missouri after his freshman year, when he scored 22 points in 12 games.
Coach Dickey Nutt lavished praise on Stone, saying he has improved both on and off the court.
”Everything about his life has changed for the better, and that’s why we’re so proud and pleased to have Tyler,” Nutt said. ”He’s certainly a high-major athlete. He’s gotten better and better every play, every game out. Let me tell you, no one hurts and will be eat up with this loss worse than him.”
But Stone wasn’t enough to break Missouri’s added defensive pressure along the perimeter in the second half, after the Tigers received words of ”encouragement” from Haith during halftime.
Previously saying his team struggled with slow starts in its first two games of the season, Bowers said energy wasn’t the problem Tuesday night. Rather, mental focus and lack of execution may have been the culprits.
Bell added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Missouri after coming off the bench for the third consecutive game. Bell’s averaged 12 points in those three games while playing 26.3 minutes, an increase of 4.3 per game from when he was starting.
Haith has asked Bell to become the team’s best perimeter defender, rather than being the team’s leading scorer, as the Pepperdine transfer is used to being.
”I’ve always had the potential to be an excellent defender,” Bell said. ”I still haven’t reached that potential yet, but I believe that I made steps in the right direction.”
Tony Criswell scored a season-high 13 points for Missouri, which extended its home winning streak against non-conference opponents to 70 games. The Tigers moved to 7-0 all-time against Southeast Missouri two games after guard Michael Dixon announced his intention to transfer.
”Glass always half full for me,” Haith said. ”I look at how we played in the second half and that’s how good this team can be, if we buy in and we play the way we’re capable of playing.”