After a slow start against Bent-Schoenen Waregem, the Missouri men's basketball team battled back to its second win on a five-game European trip, 82-71.
Senior guard Michael Dixon, just one of three returners to coach Frank Haith's squad, led the team with 31 points, shooting 10-for-18 from the field. Junior guard Earnest Ross, a transfer from Auburn added 13 while senior forward Alex Oriakhi, from Connecticut, scored 10.
The Tigers struggled to find their stroke early, trailing 12-2 early in the first quarter to the Belgium professional team. After seven unanswered points for Missouri, Bent extended its lead 21-11 to. Bent would finish the quarter up 28-21.
Sophomore forward Danny Feldmann pulled the visitors within three with back-to-back buckets. Bent continued with the back-and-fourth play, increasing the lead to 37-27.
“I give them a lot of credit,” said Haith in a news release. “They are a veteran club, so I knew they would have a lot of confidence coming in. I knew they would come out firing and they hit some shots early. I wanted our guys to hang in there and just stay patient. Once we did that, everything fell into place.”
A late three-pointer by Dixon proved to be key to turning the momentum around for the Tigers, cutting the Bent lead before half to only four, 46-42.
"That was a big shot and it was big to get that stop just before the end of the half,” said Haith in the release. “If they make that three, it’s back to seven, so our defense finally got its footing and allowed us to seize control in the second half.”
The momentum for Missouri shifted in the second half as they outscored Bent 39-26. The Tigers held the team to go 7-for-25 from the field in the final 20 minutes of the game. Ross dominated the boards with eight in that time. After tying the game with two free throws, Oriakhi gave the Tigers the lead for the first time. Missouri allowed Bent one more lead before closing out the game.
Freshman Ryan Rosburg scored seven key points for the Tigers as the game wound down. Dixon would add 12 points in the final quarter to seal up the win.
“That was a big stretch,” said Dixon in the release. “We would cut the lead down in the first half and they would hit back-to-back shots and it would be seven or eight points again. For us to get the lead, give it up and then go on that run really set the tone. Earnest was a warrior out there and Ryan Rosburg gave us some great minutes.”
Haith called upon his batch of transfers and newcomers in the win and was impressed with their performance.
“You need that depth,” said Haith in the release. “If you want to create more of an identity on defense, you need to be able to body up with folks in the paint and not give up layups. I have confidence in guys like Tony (Criswell), Stefan (Jankovic), Ryan and Danny."
European style of officiating put four Tigers in foul trouble with four apiece.
Missouri faces off with their second Belgium opponent, Gent, on Tuesday before traveling to France for a final game overseas.