Missouri overcame a slow start to beat Oral Roberts 81-62 Thursday night to reach 9-1 for the second time under coach Mike Anderson.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Anderson said. “They had to deal with finals and their schedules. We had a shoot-around today that Ricardo [Ratliffe] couldn’t even be present at, so there has been a lot of juggling. I thought they came in and really stayed focused on the task at hand.”
It was a total team effort for the Tigers, with four players finishing with more than 10 points. Junior Marcus Denmon put up 16 points, nearly equaling his season average of 16.4.
Freshman Phil Pressey registered 8 points and 7 assists in his first collegiate start. Anderson was impressed with Pressey’s composure and how his teammates supported him throughout the game.
“I thought Phil stepped up to the plate,” Anderson said. “He was one of those guys that was in charge. I thought our guys did a good job of rallying around him as well. You can see he’s got a lot of things you can’t teach, and our guys are getting a little bit more familiar with him each and every game. He’s got some things to learn, but the only way to learn those is through playing.”
Pressey started in place of sophomore Michael Dixon, who was suspended indefinitely Wednesday afternoon for breaking team rules. When asked about Dixon’s suspension, the freshman guard said that the team is focused on the upcoming opponent, not any off-the-court goings on.
"In practice, I am the starting point guard on my team, so I do get a chance to play,” Pressey said. “In practice I am not really worried about what Mike (Dixon) is doing because everybody on this team is equally important. We are just worried about the next game and trying to get better."
After going back-and-forth for most of the first half, junior Laurence Bowers drew a foul with the bucket at 6:32, tying the game at 20 and sparking an 18-2 run that led the Tigers to a 37-24 halftime lead. Bowers finished the game with 17 points and a career-high 5 blocks.
“I thought Bowers really stepped up his game. That’s the guy we’re used to… the slashing, tipping in, he was everywhere defensively and made it tough on those guys to shoot,” Anderson said. “He blocked five shots and altered so many. He started going to get rebounds in traffic, and when guys start doing that then you know they’re not only playing aggressively but also physically. They were pushing us around early in the game, and I thought our guys kind of bowed their backs and finally went to work.”
Coming out of the break, Oral Roberts capitalized on cold shooting by Missouri, trimming the Tigers’ lead to as little as 7. However, junior Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe heated up and helped Missouri build its lead to as much as 22.
After the weekend match-up against Central Arkansas, Missouri will face off against Illinois in the annual Busch Braggin’ Rights game in Saint Louis on Dec. 22.
Denmon said after the game that the Tigers would need Bowers to have another big game against Illinois if they expect to win.
"We really need Laurence [Bowers]. He is one of the key components of our team. As he continues to get better, so does the team."