It did not have quite the effect of knocking off Memphis in the Sweet 16, but Missouri took care of business in its opening exhibition game against the Truman State Bulldogs, winning 96-33.
“Everybody came out and competed,” senior guard Zaire Taylor said. “As a whole, I felt like guys started fitting into their new roles. It’s a learning process for the team, so it was a big game for everybody because you need games like this to be able to gel the way we’re going to during the season.”
Senior forward Keith Ramsey put the Tigers on his back in the early part of the game. Ramsey scored the team’s first five points and six of the first 11. His team-leading nine points in the first half contributed to Missouri’s 50-25 lead at halftime.
“I just came in like it was practice,” Ramsey said. “Coach always talks to me about being aggressive on both ends, so I felt like I needed to attack and attack. And that’s what I did.”
The Tigers took control of the game early in the first half and never looked back. Already up 7-3, Missouri went on a 16-0 run, which proved to be an insurmountable deficit for Truman State.
Sophomore forward Laurence Bowers and freshman guard Michael Dixon led the charge. Each netted four points during the run and both finished the first half with eight points. Dixon, playing in his first inter-collegiate game, finished the night with 10 points.
“When you talk about guys coming off the bench, what do they bring to the table?” coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s a guy that can knock some shots down as he showed tonight. But he can also do some other things. And he’s only going to get better.”
Bowers acknowledged the important roles of young players.
“I think it’s real important for all the young guys to get an opportunity, because we’re going to need our bench this year,” Bowers said. “Last year, our bench was our bread and butter. And this year we’re going to need our bench to be successful. So getting those guys quality playing time is huge for when we get into conference.”
When play started in the second half, Missouri picked up right where it left off. Senior guard J.T. Tiller started things with two field goals. Later, sophomore guard Kim English scored seven of his 10 points in less than a minute to widen the lead to 67-28.
As productive as the offense was, the defense was just as stingy. Truman State managed only 25 points in the first half, but that seemed like a outburst compared to the second half. The Tigers held the Bulldogs to five points for over 17 minutes and gave up only eight points overall in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought the first half and the second half were kind of different,” Anderson said. “I thought our defense really kicked into high gear. Nerves were going early on, and that was very obvious. But I thought for the most part our defense dictated the tempo of the game.”