Pressey helps No. 24 Mizzou top Mercer 81-63
Phil Pressey contemplated leaving Missouri to go to Arkansas alongside coach Mike Anderson, who joined the Razorbacks this year after recruiting Pressey at Missouri.
He stayed, and Tigers fans are glad he did.
Pressey had a career-best 22 points with four assists and five steals, helping No. 24 Missouri beat Mercer 81-63 on Monday.
''I have to take control of the game, and finish the game like a great point guard should do,'' Pressey said.
Asked if he was the crowd favorite, Pressey said, ''I guess you could say that.''
Kim English added 18 points and Michael Dixon contributed 14 points, and Missouri (2-0) used its speed to force 14 steals. Dixon and Pressey combined for 18 points in the Tigers' first game against Southeast Missouri State on Friday.
In the first round of the CBE Classic, Missouri extended its school-record winning streak over nonconference opponents at home to 60 games, since the 2005-06 opener. The Tigers entered the season ranked for the first time since 2003-04 coming off three NCAA tournament bids, and gave new coach Frank Haith his second victory at the school.
Missouri built a 16 point lead at the break and pushed it to 61-39 midway through the second half before Mercer used a 14-2 run to get within 10 points, capitalizing on Missouri's 10 turnovers in the second half.
''When we get a lead like we had, we have to learn not to take plays off,'' Mizzou coach Frank Haith said.
Under Anderson last year, the Tigers tried to speed the game up with full-court pressure, but are now trying to slow it down. With eight scholarship players, the team can wear itself down playing too quickly.
''You can have the same result,'' Haith said. ''You can still turn people over. And you have less area to cover in the half-court.''
Jibri Bryan led Mercer (1-1) with 19 points off the bench in the second game of his career. He redshirted last season after undergoing knee surgery.
''It felt great,'' Bryan said. ''Really it started from the bench, encouraging everyone else. When you get in the game, you already feel like you're in the game, so it just flowed right in to it.''
Mercer, picked to finish in the middle of the Atlantic Sun Conference, started one senior and four sophomores after losing two-thirds of its scoring and 60 percent of its rebounding from a year ago. The loss of seniors Jeff Smith and Brandon Moore leaves the team with 12 players on the roster who are freshmen or sophomores.
Justin Cecil, the lone senior on the roster and a former junior college teammate of Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, added nine points for the Bears. Bud Thomas, who scored a career-high 18 points against Emory on Saturday, was limited to a field goal and free throw at Missouri.
''It was pretty cool going up against him at this level,'' Cecil said. ''It was nice. It was something I was always hoping to get to do.''
The Tigers lack height without 6-foot-9 Laurence Bowers, out for the year with a knee injury, and often had four guards on the floor, but Mercer failed to take advantage on the boards, getting outrebounded by Missouri by four.
''Rebounding is not just about how tall you are,'' Haith said. ''It's about your desire, your passion. Paying attention to detail and blocking out. Those are the fundamentals.''
Mercer trailed by 16 at the half, but used a 16-5 run midway through the second half to close within 10, but that's as close as the Bears could get.
Missouri leads the series, 4-0. It was the first time the schools met since 1996.