Story by the Associated Press
Photos by Eric Short
Laurence Bowers (21) hands the ball off to Earnest Ross in the first half of Missouri’s 72-56 win over Appalachian State. Bowers led all Tiger scorers with 23 points.
The Missouri Tigers handled their first test after guard Michael Dixon announced he would be transferring.
Of course, the Tigers have had plenty of time getting used to going without a player considered one of the nation’s best sixth men last season.
“We really came together after the Mike situation,” forward Laurence Bowers said after matching his career high with 23 points in a 72-56 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday.
“He’s our brother and we hate that it happened, but it did.
“We’ve just got to continue to build the chemistry on this team because this is the team we’ve been playing with since the beginning. We’re going to pray for Mike.”
Bowers matched his career best set against Georgia in 2010 despite taking just one shot in the second half — a thunderous one-handed dunk off an assist from Phil Pressey that made it 61-36 with 6:18 to play.
He emphasized the early points came on shots in the rhythm of the offense.
Earnest Ross added 13 points and nine rebounds off the bench for the Tigers (6-1), who have won 69 in a row at home against non-conference opponents going back to 2005.
Two more reserves scored in double figures with Keion Bell getting 12 points and Tony Criswell 10.
Negus Webster-Chan (14) tries to contain Appalachian State’s Jamaal Trice. Webster-Chan had one steal in Missouri’s 72-56 win over Appalachian State
Jay Canty had a career high 29 points for Appalachian State (1-6), which has lost six in a row since opening with a victory over NAIA Montreat.
Canty was 11 for 19 and added six rebounds, but the rest of the Mountaineers were just 10 for 40.
“I didn’t think I had to do that, at all,” said Canty, a transfer from Xavier. “I thought we were going to come out and do it together, but we struggled a little bit and I felt like I had to do something to try to pick our guys up.”
It’s the Mountaineers’ longest losing streak since dropping eight in a row in 2004.
“We missed probably nine layups in the first half, which changes the complexity of the game if we make those layups,” coach Jason Capel said. “I think Missouri had a lot to do with that.
“But are we going to be able to get to the rim like that against teams in our league? Absolutely.”
Dixon elected to leave the school Thursday after two sexual assault claims against him became public this week. Dixon had been expected to take a major role in his senior season but never played.
“Obviously, we talked about adversity, distractions, all those things,” coach Frank Haith said. “They understand we must play a game today, we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play and move forward.
“As we do the rest of the year.”
Missouri has several options at guard opposite Pressey.
The field includes Bell, Ross, freshman Negus Webster-Chan and Oregon transfer Jabari Brown, who’ll be eligible at the semester break.
Webster-Chan made his second straight start at guard ahead of Ross on Saturday and was scoreless in 28 minutes on 0-for-4 shooting.
For now, Haith likes Webster-Chan starting because he’s also the backup point guard.
“This is my theory behind doing this: He’s getting a sweat, he’s getting lathered up,” Haith said. “So it’s not like going in dry.”
Haith said Brown has played a lot with the first unit in practice, adding “he’s got to be ready right away,” but would not start in his anticipated debut Dec. 17 against South Carolina State.
Bell, a transfer from Pepperdine, is making the adjustment from a player whom Haith characterized as one who once “monopolized the ball” to a more complementary role.
Bowers outscored Appalachian State by himself most of the first half, settling for a 21-all draw when the Mountaineers scored six points in the final 1:04 to make it 39-21. He was a perfect 3 for 3 from 3-point range and made all but 10 attempts overall.
He has been a second-half player in the early season, averaging 11.5 points after the break and 14.2 points overall entering the Appalachian State game.
“About the flip-flop,” Bowers said, “it just happened that way.”
Missouri’s next game is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4, vs. Southeast Missouri State at Mizzou Arena is 7 p.m.
Phil Pressey (1) reads the defense while being trailed by Keion Bell (5). Pressey led MIssouri in assists with seven in Missouri’s 72-56 win over Appalachian State.
Keion Bell (5) flicks a shot up past Appalachian State’s Brian Okam. Bell had 12 points and six rebounds.
Missouri coach Frank Haith has a quick chat with Laurence Bowers. Bowers led the Tigers with 23 points.