Senior forward Laurence Bowers scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half and freshman forward Stefan Jankovic added 14 in the second half to lead No. 12 Missouri in a 68-38 win over Tennessee State.
“He’s been real consistent and he’s been our go-to guy thus far this season,” coach Frank Haith said of Bowers. “But I do think we have a number of guys who can score and guys just have to continue to get comfortable.”
Bowers scored the Tigers’ (8-1) first six points of the game, but TSU grabbed the lead behind timely three-point shooting.
A Bowers jump shot with four and a half minutes left in the first half gave Missouri the lead for good, helping MU survive a potentially fatal trend— failing to put mid-majors away early in games.
“We want to get out to good starts,” Haith said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve gotten out to good starts and haven’t finished well. It’s just a matter of putting together 40 minutes.”
The later 20 minutes were anything but problematic for Missouri, which held the Tigers of TSU to 23.8 percent shooting from the field.
Missouri wrapped a 16-4 run around halftime spurred by Bowers’s jumper to give MU the lead. Junior forward Earnest Ross knocked down a free throw, then Bowers hit a triple from the top of the key with 48 seconds left in the half.
Junior All-American guard Phil Pressey got on the board moments into the second period with two foul shots and Bowers hit another jumper in the soft spot of TSU’s defense.
After a Kellen Thornton layup, Pressey scored from beyond the arc and freshman guard Negus Webster-Chan pulled down a defensive rebound and ran the floor, finishing with his left hand in a highly trafficked lane to cap the run.
That’s when Jankovic caught fire, putting back a Bowers jumper with an emphatic dunk that elicited applause en masse from the 10,338 packing Mizzou Arena.
Before the afternoon was through, Jankovic, who docked just four minutes of playing time in his last three games, hit 2-of-5 triples and went a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line and added five rebounds.
“Coach always tells me to be ready,” he said. “So it’s not really a big thing whether I’m on the bench chairing or this game coming in igniting a spark.”
Jankovic was one of two sparks for Missouri on Tuesday night while senior center Alex Oriakhi posted his third double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“Coach Haith is giving me confidence no matter what," Oriakhi said. "Even if I play bad, he’s always emphasizing throwing me the ball. When you have a coach who wants to get you the ball inside, you want to do everything in your power to make plays and finish.”
To the delight of Haith, Missouri out-rebounded Tennessee State at an almost two-to-one margin (52-27). At the half, MU went to a generally larger lineup to combat TSU’s effective 2-3 zone designed to keep the ball from Missouri’s forwards.
“At one point we had Stefan, Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi out there for us,” Haith said. “You can’t get much bigger than that.”