COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) —Alex Oriakhi’s temper got the best of him when he reached up from the court and pulled down Reginald Buckner. After a minute on the bench, the senior forward returned with just as much fire but much better focus.
Oriakhi had a career-high 22 points to go with 18 rebounds, three blocks and a central role in a second-half fracas of No. 21 Missouri’s easy 98-79 victory over Mississippi on Saturday. Five of the rebounds and four points came in a span of 2:35 after he returned.
“As long as he channels it and gets 18 boards and 22 points, I don’t think I’ll be unhappy with that,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I just don’t want him doing anything crazy to hurt our team, and I think that’s what he’s got to understand.
“He gets so excited. All you’ve got to do is just do it on the court, nothing to talk about.”
Phil Pressey had four assists to break Anthony Peeler’s career school record and had 22 points for Missouri (17-6, 6-4 Southeastern Conference), which bounced back nicely from its latest discouraging road loss, a 1-point setback at Texas A&M on Thursday. The Tigers are 14-0 at home and 0-5 on the road.
Haith said the disparity is the “$50 million question.”
“We know we have to get our stuff together and get it going,” Pressey said. “This is when we really need to start kicking into our stride to be the best team we can be.”
Marshall Henderson had 16 points on 4-for-15 shooting for Mississippi (18-5, 7-3), which was on the verge of cracking the Top 25 last week but has lost three of four. Jarvis Summers also had 16 points while Murphy Holloway, coming off a career-best 24 points, was held to seven points and one rebounds in 30 minutes.
Holloway averages 15 points and 10 rebounds and is the career leading rebounder at Ole Miss.
“It seemed like we were running uphill the entire game,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “And anytime they did miss shots, which was not often, Oriakhi got them all.”
Ole Miss whipped then-No. 10 Missouri 64-49 at home on Jan. 12, but gave up 50 points in the first half of the rematch and was outrebounded 50-32.
“Just awareness, man,” said Mississippi forward Nick Williams, who returned after missing two games with a foot injury and had nine points in 26 minutes. “We’re not playing with any awareness, any toughness.”
The game got testy with about 7 1-2 minutes to go when Buckner apparently was tripped by Oriakhi after the Tigers scored to make it 80-58 and came up swinging with a couple of wild punches that missed Laurence Bowers as Oriakhi danced away.
Buckner was ejected, leaving the court with a towel draped over his right shoulder and then tossing the towel into the stands after finishing with nine points and four rebounds. Oriakhi was called for a flagrant foul, plus Brown, Bowers and Holloway were whistled for technicals.
“We just got tangled up. It was just emotions,” Oriakhi said. “Two teams battling, that’s pretty much it. I’m happy with the way I responded to that incident.”
Kennedy said he didn’t see what started the fracas, but was told by officials that Oriakhi was responsible. Mississippi players couldn’t help but notice Oriakhi’s play not just after the technical, but for the entire game.
“Once he gets rolling, he starts talking a little bit,” Williams said. “I guess that’s to help him out a little bit, but he did what he had to do.
“He was big, he was physical and he punked us.”
Kennedy feared Buckner was facing a suspension, and thought the school might hear from the SEC early next week.
Missouri matched its season best with 12 3-pointers, four by Pressey and three each by Keion Bell and Jabari Brown. Bell added 21 points after entering the game with four 3-pointers all season, and Brown had 14.
Pressey, a junior, has 499 assists in three seasons, one more than Peeler totaled from 1988-92. He leads the SEC at 7.1 assists per game and finished with four assists and one turnover, one game after committing seven turnovers and missing a potential game-winning shot at Texas A&M.
“It’s crazy,” Pressey said of the assists record. “I just want to shatter it so nobody can touch it.”
The 50-point first half was a season best for Missouri, which led by as many as 23 points and had a 16-point halftime lead. After Brown’s 3-pointer with 7:07 to go in the half, Missouri was up 38-18 and had more 3-pointers (7) than Mississippi had baskets (6). Pressey was just 4 for 13 overall, but hit his first three 3-pointers to fuel the fast start.
Mississippi shot itself out of the game, at 38 percent overall and 2 for 9 from 3-point range. Coming off a career-best 24-point game against Mississippi State, Holloway was scoreless until 6 minutes to go and totaled two points in the half.