(AP) — Missouri didn’t have too many problems in its inaugural SEC game but will likely face a stiffer challenge in its first visit to a new conference opponent.
The 10th-ranked Tigers will play their first game without leading scorer Laurence Bowers on Saturday night when they face Mississippi, one of the nation’s highest scoring teams.
Missouri opened SEC play with an 84-68 win over Alabama on Tuesday, but Bowers sprained the MCL in his right knee late in that game after colliding with teammate Phil Pressey. An MRI the next day showed no damage to the ACL or bone, but the senior forward, averaging career highs of 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds, is expected to miss at least two games before being re-evaluated.
Bowers sat out all of last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee.
“We’re concerned when any of our guys get hurt,” coach Frank Haith said.
With Bowers out and reserve forward Tony Criswell’s status unknown due to a broken bone in his left hand, the Tigers (12-2, 1-0) could use another strong effort from Jabari Brown. The transfer from Oregon had a career-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting against Alabama after scoring three points and missing eight of nine shots in a 66-64 home win over Bucknell on Jan. 5.
Earnest Ross, a transfer from Auburn, added a season-high 19 points off the bench and three other players also scored in double figures. Senior forward Alex Oriakhi was one of those with 16 points, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double in 14 games since coming to Missouri from Connecticut.
Pressey, the SEC’s preseason player of the year, had 13 assists, giving him 48 over his last four games.
“We’ve got guys that can score, and we have guys that can have big nights,” Haith said.
Averaging 78.9 points, the Tigers own the third-best offense in the SEC but they’ll have to face the best one Saturday. Mississippi (12-2, 1-0) is averaging 83.7 points and has topped 90 in back-to-back games, including a 92-74 win at Tennessee in Wednesday’s SEC opener.
Marshall Henderson, averaging a league-best 19.1 points, scored a career-high 32 in his team’s fourth straight win despite missing nine of 12 shots from 3-point range. Henderson, a junior guard who is at his fourth college in four seasons, is shooting 46.3 percent overall over the last three games after making 34.5 percent of his attempts over the previous eight contests.
“His confidence doesn’t wane,” coach Andy Kennedy said.
Senior forward Murphy Holloway recorded his league-high eighth double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday. Holloway and Henderson have led Ole Miss to an 8-0 mark at home.
The Rebels have also beaten five of the past eight Top 25 opponents to visit Oxford, but their two losses this season have come to unheralded Middle Tennessee State and Indiana State. The Tigers, meanwhile, have been beaten by then-No. 2 Louisville on Nov. 23 and UCLA on Dec. 28, a 97-94 overtime defeat in their lone road game.
Before that loss, Missouri beat then-No. 10 Illinois 82-73 on Dec. 22 in St. Louis. Mississippi has lost three straight overall matchups with ranked teams but hasn’t faced one this season.
This is the Rebels’ first meeting with the Tigers.