Missouri defeats Wofford in season opener

Outside of last year’s 21-point performance by Teki Gill Caesar, Mizzou hasn’t had a 20-point outing by a freshman like Kevin Puryear’s tonight since Jevon Crudup in 1990.

Drifting off his left hand, the ball touched the net — like, literally, nothing but net as freshman forward Kevin Puryear drilled a fadeaway from the left elbow to begin the 2015-16 Missouri men’s basketball season.

Outside of Las Vegas’ line that favored the Tigers by a point and a half, not many expected a Missouri 83-74 win on Friday night. Coming off a 9-23 season and facing one of last year’s 13-seeds in the NCAA tournament in the Wofford Terriers didn’t help either.

Puryear scored that first basket and did not look back. Left-hand floater, turnaround layup — the freshman from Blue Springs, Missouri, had everything going as he finished with 20 points and five rebounds for the Tigers.

“That’s a pretty good kickstart to a career for that young man,” Wofford coach Mike Young said of Puryear. “I was a little surprised (tonight). We're not very good defensively, but to give up 83 points, I tip my hat to Kim's team. Those guys came right back and continued to play and make things difficult.”

Trailing 8-2 early in the first half, Mizzou substituted junior forward Russell Woods into the game. His 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame added a layup immediately and later scored an and-1 for the Tigers, catapulting a 20-2 run.

With his 4-4 shooting in the first half — for nine points — and 11 points from Puryear, Missouri hit the locker room leading 39-29.

In the second half, sophomore guard Namon Wright provided the scoring punch. His jumper, which defines the cliche term “smooth as silk,” provided 15 points in the second half when his team needed it most.

“That was big, having 18 points off the bench, that was big for us,” said freshman point guard Terrence Phillips of Wright. Woods added, “Man, Namon can shoot. He just brings that spark and I just love playing with him.”

In the days leading up to the contest, Missouri head coach Kim Anderson said tempo would be the key. Inbound after inbound Phillips pushed the ball up the floor weaving through defenders — not to mention his activity on the 2-1-2 full court press Missouri implemented throughout the game.

It’s Phillips’ tenacity, toughness and willingness to support his team that had Wofford’s Young impressed enough to say postgame, “I think Phillips, I really like his game. I like what he brings to the table.”

The energy in the arena tonight was palpable. With the pressure defense, the engaged fans and the fast start, the experience made some reminisce the days of old.

“(This) sure feels better than it did 365 days ago,” Anderson said after the game. “That's a good basketball team. I thought maybe we got a little tired, but overall good win and something I hope we can build on."

Mizzou will play host to Maryland Eastern-Shore on 5 p.m. Sunday. The intensity that the Tigers played with, that’s something Anderson wants his team to hang their hats on.

"If anything, I hope they continue to play without fear."

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