Tennessee State started out shooting the ball like a team that could give Missouri trouble. The visiting Tigers made four of their first six shots from the floor, including a couple of three-pointers and led 10-9. From there on out, TSU was just 11-for-57. That's 19.3% if you're scoring at home and a 68-38 Missouri win no matter where you're scoring.
The offensive offensive display for Tennessee State included a 12-minute span in which Missouri allowed only two points. That began with 8:38 to go in the first half and did not end until just before the 16-minute mark of the second half.
"The defense was great, especially in the second half," Alex Oriakhi said. "We just responded. As a team we said we have to get stops and that's exactly what we did." "We did who we are. We defended and we rebounded," head coach Frank Haith said. "I think that's who we are right now. Until we become a real fluid offensive team, we have to be real strong in that night in and night out."
Offensively, Missouri was led by Laurence Bowers, who scored 12 of his game-high 18 before halftime and is now averaging a team-best 16.9 points per game. Freshman Stefan Jankovic came off the bench after playing just four minutes in the previous three-and-a-half games to score 14 after the half.
"Coach always tells me to be ready. It's not really a big thing. I'm just on the bench, whether it's last game cheering or tonight coming in and (providing) a spark, I'm always ready," Jankovic said. "I always treat every day as a chance to get better."
"He was huge," Oriakhi said. "When he came into the game I said 'We need your energy' and that's exactly what he gave us. Playing D, contesting shots, hitting shots. I'm just extremely happy for him because he's a great kid."
Jankovic credited his fellow big men with his performance on Saturday as well.
"I'm still practicing and that's the big thing," Jankovic said. "That's my game sometimes. I find myself in practice trying my hardest. When the game comes, I'm going up against guys like Alex and Laurence in practice, so I'm ready."
Offensively it wasn't pretty, but Haith has warned fans that this team might not be a work of aesthetic beauty on that end. Missouri could breathe easy thanks to six blocked shots and a 52-27 rebounding edge over their third Ohio Valley Conference victim of the season.
"That's who we've got to be anytime. I want to rebound, I want to defend, night in, night out," Haith said. "If you're able to do that, you're always going to have a chance to be around the game. Every night you may not shoot the ball well so we need to do that consistently every single night we lace them up."
Turning Point: Once again, it was the trip to the locker room at halftime. Mizzou led just 23-20 at half and Bowers and Oriakhi had combined for 22 of the 23 points (both finished the night with double-doubles, 18 and 10 for Bowers and 15 and 10 for Oriakhi). But the Tigers started with a 9-2 run and led by double digits the rest of the way.
Play of the Game: The first two points for Jankovic came off a rare Bowers miss. The 6-foot-11 freshman swooped in from the right wing, grabbed the rebound with his right hand and threw down a dunk that ignited the Mizzou Arena season-best crowd of 10,338.
Reason for Hope: Missouri is not winning the way it won last year, but it is winning. The Tigers are 8-and-1 and should be 9-and-1 and in very possibly in the top ten entering the Braggin' Rights Game. In addition, the Tigers have played their final game without Oregon transfer and former five-star recruit Jabari Brown. Haith will finally have a full arsenal at his disposal.
Cause for Concern: Phil Pressey followed up a 4-for-18 shooting performance with a mostly invisible game against Tennessee State. The Tigers can survive such days for Pressey in these non-conference gimmies. They will not be able to later in the year.
"Phil didn't have a night tonight," Haith said. "But we all know what Phil's capable of."
Up Next: Missouri takes the week off for final exams before hosting South Carolina State at 7 p.m. on Monday, December 17th. PowerMizzou.com will have Instant Analysis live from Mizzou Arena.
Quotable: "It's fun as a coach. When you look at your personnel and, as a coach, you put guys in position where they can become successful. Last year's team looked different. This year's team looks totally different than last year's team and we play differently. Obviously, we said that going in, that there were going to be some things that look similar, but this team, I think we're like fourth or third or fifth in the country rebounding. We were plus one last year rebounding the basketball. I looked out there one time, we had Stefan, Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. You can't get no bigger than that. I think Negus was our point guard at 6-7, Earnest Ross was our two guard at 6-6. Obviously, we can put a lot of looks like that." --Haith on the contrast between last year's team and this year's team
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