Appalachian St.-Missouri Preview
Missouri was dealt a major blow this week when suspended senior Michael Dixon chose not to return to the team after a pair of sexual assault accusations were made public.
With its bevy of new players still trying to get accustomed to each other, the 16th-ranked Tigers will attempt to adjust to this latest change during four straight home games against lackluster foes, beginning with their first matchup with Appalachian State on Saturday.
Dixon was supposed to serve as a key player in Missouri's inaugural SEC campaign after averaging 13.5 points for last season's 30-win team and being unanimously voted the Big 12's sixth man of the year.
Instead, the projected starter spent all six games on the bench for undisclosed reasons. Last weekend, a 19-year-old sophomore said she had accused Dixon of sexual assault during a Twitter exchange with former Tigers guard Kim English, currently a member of the Detroit Pistons.
The woman also filed a police report in August, but local prosecutors decided not to file charges Nov. 16.
Dixon was also briefly suspended in December 2010 by former coach Mike Anderson after a woman who is now a university employee alleged he committed sexual assault. She ultimately declined to file formal charges.
With those accusations coming to light, Dixon decided Thursday that he would transfer.
"It's been a challenging few months and while I appreciate the support of many in the Mizzou community, including my coaches and teammates, it's in the best interest of me, my family and the University of Missouri for me to finish my career elsewhere," Dixon said in a statement.
The Tigers have gone 5-1 without Dixon but were blown out 84-61 by then-No. 2 Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 23 in the Bahamas. They also needed a pair of late shots from Phil Pressey to edge Virginia Commonwealth 68-65 in their tournament finale last Saturday.
Pressey, the team's leading scorer and only returning starter from 2011-12, finished with 11 points and eight assists. Laurence Bowers had a team-best 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Pressey and Bowers, who sat out last season with a knee injury, are the program's only remaining players from its 2010-11 team. The Tigers' other significant contributors on this season's squad are transfers Alex Oriakhi, Earnest Ross and Keion Bell, a former junior college player at his third school in three years in Tony Criswell and freshman Negus Webster-Chan.
Missouri will have to incorporate another transfer, sophomore guard Jabari Brown, when he becomes eligible before a visit from South Carolina State on Dec. 17. The Tigers will also face Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee State during their four-game homestand before taking on No. 22 Illinois in the annual Braggin' Rights game Dec. 22 in St. Louis.
"These first couple of games, we've been up and down. Guys are trying to figure out their roles. I feel like it's going to take time for us to put every piece together," Pressey said.
First, the Tigers will face the struggling Mountaineers (1-5), losers of five in a row. Appalachian State couldn't finish off its rally from a 14-point halftime deficit in a 73-72 loss against visiting Duquesne on Wednesday.
Nathan Healy scored a team-best 21 points while Tab Hamilton had a season-high 19. Leading scorer Jay Canty, a transfer from Xavier averaging 16.3 points, recorded his first collegiate double-double with 15 points and 10 assists.