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December 1, 2012?
It was a long week for the Missouri basketball team, which finally learned the fate of SR guard Michael Dixon and hadn't played since winning third place at the Battle 4 Atlantis. A little bit of a let down would have been understandable, but it didn't happen Saturday night in a 72-56 win over Appalachian State.
What happened instead was that Laurence Bowers came out firing on all cylinders with 21 points in the first half. Bowers wasn't able to keep pace in the second half, but he still finished tied for his career high with 23 points for the game.
"I just wanted to come out and help the team in the first half," said Bowers who was previously more productive in the second half. "A lot of my shots I was just a beneficiary of a great pass. We always preach good shot great shot and all of my shots, I believe, were great shots because they were in the rhythm of the offense."
Another change for the Tigers against Appalachian State was in the play of Phil Pressey, who was looking for his teammates first. Pressey finished the game with 7 assists, 2 turnovers, and only took 7 shots for the game.
"In the Bahamas I wasn't putting a lot of trust in my teammates and I felt like this was a big game for me to get that going," said Pressey. "Laurence started off playing well and shooting the ball well so I felt like if I could get everybody going on the offensive end then we should be unstoppable."
Most of the talk post-game was on the win over the Mountaineers, but when asked Bowers did address the situation with Mike Dixon.
"We had almost a week I believe to prepare and I thought guys really took heed to what coach was saying in practice," Bowers said. "We really came together after the Mike situation. You know he's our brother and we hate that it happened, but it did so we just got to continue to build the chemistry on this team because this is the team we've been playing with since the beginning. We just got to continue to work and pray for Mike."
Earnest Ross and Keion Bell also had solid days for the Tigers. Ross finished with a team high 9 rebounds as well as 13 points and 3 assists while Bell had his second straight 12 point game coming off the bench. Bell also added 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in what was his best game of the season statistically.
Player of the Game: Bowers tied his career high in points with 23 after starting the game pumping in the Tigers first seven points. It looked like Bowers would easily beat his previous career high after having 21 in the first half, but a quiet second half left him tied.
Turning Point: There really wasn't a specific turning point. There was never a doubt Missouri would win after Bowers staked the Tigers to a very quick 7-0 lead. Mizzou led by as much as 25 in the game.
Play of the Game: Pressey got the ball at the top of the key on the Mountaineers' half of the court and raced towards the other end executing a perfect spin move to leave a defender in the dust. Once he got just inside the Tigers' three point line he dropped a no look pass to Bowers who elevated and slammed it home showing no lingering effects from his knee surgery.
Reason for Hope: The Tigers know exactly what their team will look like going forward. Jabari Brown will join the team at the conclusion of this semester, but Frank Haith said he is already practicing him with the primary unit. The cloud of uncertainty that was around the team can not be an excuse any more.
Cause for Concern: According to Haith a cause of concern for the Tigers is how they are closing out games.
"That's a thing that I think this team has got to really get better with," Haith said. "We really don't have that killer instinct just yet. You know when we have a team down just to really go after it. That's something that we have to get better at. "
Up Next: The Tigers host Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday night at 7:00.
Quotable: "Negus gives us a secondary ball handler and I like him to start the game now that he has established himself being that guy. When Negus is our backup point it's tough for him to go in at that position when he subs for Phil. This is my theory behind doing this. He's getting a sweat, he's getting lathered up so when he does go to the one it's not like going in dry." --Haith on starting Webster-Chan instead of Bell.