Mizzou hosts Tennessee State
(AP) — An unexpected challenge the last time out gave Frank Haith’s developing Missouri team a chance to display its potential.
The 12th-ranked Tigers will try to build on the second-half performance from their latest win when they host streaking Tennessee State on Saturday.
Missouri trailed by 10 at halftime against Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday but outscored the Redhawks 46-20 in the second half, going on to an 81-65 win. The Tigers (7-1) shot 51.9 percent over the final 20 minutes and limited the visitors to 26.7 percent shooting after allowing them to hit 55.2 percent before the break.
Missouri also made 17 of 19 free throws after missing their only two attempts in the first half, and finished with a season-low five turnovers.
“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.”
Missouri has three transfers on its roster – Alex Oriakhi, Earnest Ross and Keion Bell – with another on the way. Jabari Brown, who last played at Oregon, is expected to become eligible ahead of a visit from South Carolina State on Dec. 17.
Laurence Bowers has returned from a knee injury that forced him to sit out last season, but he has found his groove lately with a combined 49 points in the last two games. He scored a career-high 26 and grabbed nine rebounds Tuesday.
“He can do everything,” 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.”
Missouri’s lone returning starter, Phil Pressey, has struggled with his shooting lately, connecting at 33.8 percent over the last six games. He’s 6 of 25 (24.0 percent) in the past two games and 2 of 13 from 3-point range.
“There may be a night where we want Phil taking 18 shots, but that’s not his game right now,” Haith said.
Pressey and his teammates would appear to have a couple of opportunities to tune up before facing No. 13 Illinois on Dec. 22, but there’s a chance Tennessee State (4-5) might provide another test. It has won three in a row while shooting at least 50.0 percent in each game.
Kellen Thornton had a team-best 20 points in a 76-66 victory over Drexel on Tuesday and has averaged 21.5 and 64.4 percent shooting in his last four games. Leading scorer Robert Covington, averaging 16.3 points, had 17 after scoring at least 25 in each of his two previous contests.
Tennessee State, though, faces the difficult task of trying to snap Missouri’s 70-game home win streak against non-conference opponents. Missouri has also won 22 in a row in December.
Missouri took the only matchup with Tennessee State on Nov. 27, 1995.