Shooting surge leads the Tigers

Mizzou was eight-of-nine from beyond the arc in the second half.

Tramaine Isabell got the ball in the corner Wednesday night, nothing between him and the net but a black 3-point line. The freshman guard pulled up, released and watched the ball sail through the net.

The crowd of 5,563 at Mizzou Arena erupted.

Isabel’s trey was the Tiger’s third in as many possessions, pushing Mizzou out to a 58-52 lead with 10:56 remaining in the second half.

First freshman forward Montaque Gill-Caesar hit his fourth three pointer, then sophomore guard Wes Clark drained one from a foot behind the line, which led to Isabel’s electrifying trey.

Three point shooting in the second half improved drastically, as the Tigers shot four of twelve behind the arc in the opening half. They finished the night shooting 12-21 from three, helping Mizzou (2-1) to 78-64 over Oral Roberts (1-1).

Meanwhile the Golden Eagles struggled, missing all nine of their 3-point attempts in the second half.

“Well I’ve been in basketball all my life,” Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. “In my 16 years as a head coach, I’m not sure I’ve seen a shooting performance quite like that.”

Sutton had reason to be surprised. The Tigers converted just 23.5 percent of their attempts from deep in Sunday’s game against Valparaiso.

Mizzou finished Wednesday night shooting 57.1 percent from beyond the arc — 88.9 percent in the second half. The Tigers made five straight 3-pointers in the second stanza.

Missouri coach Kim Anderson wasn’t surprised with the display of deep shooting. He said he knew that his team had the ability to shoot, but that with a young team it would take time to see results on the court.

“They’ve worked hard and they made the extra pass,” Anderson said. “This was really good tonight for them for their confidence.”

Clark wasn’t surprised either. He said that he knows the Tigers have always been a good shooting team, but nerves sometimes took hold once they stepped on the court for games.

Chemistry also had a huge role, according to both Clark and Gill-Caesar.

“We’re starting to get the ball in the right spots at the right time,” Clark said. “And we’re making those open shots.”

The strong 3-point shooting helped the Tigers pull away from Oral Roberts, which blew its halftime lead of two points within minutes of the second half.

The Tigers started slow, trailing after giving up a 2-1 lead 55 seconds into the game. They shot just 13-30 on field goals in the opening half while Oral Roberts started the game shooting 8-8 on field goals and ended the half shooting 13-20.

The driving force behind the Golden Eagles’ strong start was junior guard Obi Emegano, who was a perfect 5-5 field goal shooting as he lead ORU with 18 points in the first half in just seven minutes. Emegano came out after getting into foul trouble at 12:35 of the first half.

The junior finished the night with 30 points in 27 minutes.

Sutton blamed himself for taking out Emegano too early, after the guard committed his second foul in the first ten minutes of the game.

“He’s too good and too smart,” Sutton said. “Some guys you don’t want to put out there in that situation because they don’t understand the flow of the game or how to stay away from contact. But Obi does.”

Still, the Golden Eagles went into the half up 40-38.

Mizzou regained the lead early in the second half and never let go.

Gill-Caesar led the Tigers with 19 points and four rebounds, while sophomore point guard Wes Clark shot 3-4 from behind the arc, contributing with 14 points and nine assists of his own.

Gill-Caesar’s 19 points came after his morning began with upper respiratory symptoms, according to Anderson. The freshman saw team doctors during the day, but was able to bounce back in time to lead his Tigers.

“That was a pretty gutsy performance,” Anderson said. “He’s a good player, and he’s a freshman. He’s going to have great nights and nights that aren’t so great, but the most important thing is that you just keep playing.”

Anderson also credited junior forward Deuce Bello for coming off the bench and scoring seven points. Bello played just two minutes in Sunday’s matchup against Valparaiso.

Anderson said Bello’s hard work in practice helped him assist Clark in shutting down Emegano in the second half.

“(Bello) spent the last two days learning, and I’m very happy for him,” Anderson said. “He worked hard, he didn’t complain, and he got more time.”

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