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November 4, 2012

Jankovic leads Tigers in final tune-up

Coming into the season big things were expected from a host of Tiger newcomers, specifically Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Alex Oriakhi. In the Tigers blowout win over Missouri Southern some of the less heralded newcomers took advantage of additional playing time and helped lead Mizzou to a 86-60 victory over the Lions.

Stefan Jankovic led Mizzou in scoring with 20 points on 8-13 shooting including 3-4 from three and fellow Freshman Negus Webster-Chan added 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Junior College transfer Tony Criswell also made his biggest contributions as a Tiger finishing with 13 points and 3 rebounds.

"I had to talk Stef through some offensive possessions. He was playing on the perimeter for the first time. He had one day of practice to do that and he goes and gets twenty so he'll probably tell me he needs to be on the perimeter all the time," said Frank Haith.

To Jankovic's credit he took his first moment in the spotlight in stride. For a player that spent his first month of practices working in the post he didn't let the opportunity to get out on the wing go by without taking advantage of it.

"I felt comfortable coming into the game. Coach Haith obviously talked to me before and let me know you'll get some more minutes. A couple other guys were like come on Stef lets have a good game. When I stepped on the court I had a lot more confidence coming in. The first three of course that always helps out. I thought before the game I was pretty tuned in," said Jankovic.

Laurence Bowers had been working in the post with Jankovic and didn't seem surprised by what the Freshman accomplished.

"I see Stefan everyday in practice. I have to go against Stefan a lot and I know what he is capable of. He definitely has to build on from this. He showed his versatility and that's what he's known for, being versatile. He's just got to continue to get better in practice," Bowers said.

The big games from each were needed due Keion Bell being unavailable due to an illness and Mike Dixon still serving a suspension for violating team rules. Add to that Jabari Brown not being available yet and it appears Frank Haith will face some challenges in allocating playing time once the team is at full strength.

"We all know Stefan's talent level, but you got to look big picture at our team. There's no Jabari (Brown), Mike Dixon, or Keion Bell and all three of those guys are going to play heavy minutes. He (Stefan Jankovic) gives you a luxury because he's probably one of the better shooters on our team. Even at the three spot he makes great passes cause he can see over defenses. When he's talked about cutting through the lane that is all new for him. We play through our post. We throw the ball in the post and him cutting he can finish cause he's big. The biggest thing is him guarding on the perimeter and getting used to that and I thought he did a decent job of that today being the first time," Haith said.

Player of the Game: Stefan Jankovic. In only his second game as a Tiger the 6-foot-11 forward from Toronto scored 20 points while shooting 61.5% from the floor. He also added five rebounds and a blocked shot.

Turning Point: The start of the second half. Missouri Southern kept the game close most of the first half, but the Tigers came out of the locker room and put the game out of reach quickly with a 13-2 run.

Play of the Game: Webster-Chan and Jankovic got out on a fast-break which Jankovic finished with a one handed tomahawk dunk over a helpless Missouri Southern defender. Webster-Chan got the assist with a nice bounce pass that hit Jankovic in stride.

Cause for Concern: Turnovers. Mizzou had two more turnovers than Missouri Southern with 16. Five of those came from Junior Point Guard Phil Pressey. Frank Haith mentioned after the game that it is an area that needs to be cleaned up.

Up Next: Missouri hosts Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in their first regular season game on Saturday at 4 p.m.

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