The Missouri men’s basketball team wrapped up preseason play Friday night with a blowout win over visiting Arkansas-Fort Smith. The 115-74 victory came in their second of two exhibition games, with the first resulting in an even bigger win over Harris-Stowe last week.
Missouri had six players in double figures in the win, with junior forward Laurence Bowers leading the pack with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
“Laurence Bowers continues to play unbelievable basketball right now,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s just seeing the game in slow motion right now. It seems like he gets every rebound and is on the ball all the time.”
The Lions kept it close to start, leading for much of the first ten minutes and staying even with the Tigers long into the first half. But Missouri surged to end the period and went into halftime with a 45-33 lead.
Missouri let the non-conference, Division II opponent hang around longer than they expected. Bowers admitted that his team might have underestimated Arkansas-Fort Smith and contributed to the flat start.
“We learned that we can’t come out and take anybody for granted,” Bowers said. “Coming into the game, in the back of our minds we knew we were going to win. So after they hung around with us for so long, we see that we can’t take anybody lightly.”
Around the time the Tigers and Lions were tied at 25 nearly fifteen minutes into the game, the Missouri players say one of Anderson’s subliminal messages of frustration.
“The jacket coming off means somebody is in trouble,” sophomore guard Michael Dixon.
The Tigers know when Anderson takes off his jacket he wants them to pick it up. Dixon must have gotten the message as he finished with 19 points and four steals, including four-for-five from long range.
Missouri came out of halftime flying, starting the second half with a 14-2 run in the first four minutes. From then on the Tigers dominated on both sides of the floor, using swarming defense to force offensive chances. They finished with 17 steals and 38 points of turnovers.
Despite being the leading scorer, Bowers knows scrappy plays that force turnovers matter more than any amount of points.
“Coach doesn’t really care about who scores the most points,” Bowers said. “He likes blue collar guys, so getting an assist or a rebound or taking a charge will keep you on the floor more.”
Missouri shot a strong 56.1-percent from the field to Arkansas-Fort Smith’s 39.7-percent. The Tigers also shot well from three-point range going 10-22 on the night.
Despite the strong finish, the tale of two halves had Anderson seeing a lot of room for improvement in his team.
“We still got a ways to go to get our team to where I want to be,” Anderson said. “We can be a deep team, so we have to get those guys to understand their roles and get them more ready.
The regular season tips off Nov. 18 when the Tigers take on Western Illinois at Mizzou Arena. The matchup is part of the opening round of the 2010 Cancun Challenge tournament.