No. 10 Missouri whips Alabama 84-68 in SEC debut
Story by the Associated Press
Photos by Karen Mitchell
Missouri’s sophomore guard Jabari Brown (32) led the Tigers with a career-high 22 points.
Update: Missouri senior forward Laurence Bowers suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee according to the Missouri Athletic Department. An MRI Wednesday morning revealed no damage to the ACL or to bone in the knee. Bowers will miss the Jan. 12 game against Ole Miss and the Jan. 16 game against Georgia and will be reevaluated next week.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Laurence Bowers has been enjoying a big comeback season for No. 10 Missouri, leading the Tigers in scoring and second in rebounding entering the school’s SEC debut.
Now he’s hurt again.
Laurence Bowers rubs his knee after being injured in the second half.
Phil Pressey tangles with two Alabama players in a fight for a loose ball.
Alex Oriakhi battles at the post with Moussa Gueye.
Alabama’s Trevor Releford drives to the basket between Phil Pressey (1) and Jabari Brown (32).
Phil Pressey (1) and Laurence Bowers (21) start to celebrate as Missouri pulls away from Alabama in the second half.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, center, was one of the fans Tuesday night in Missouri’s SEC league opener.
The senior forward injured his right knee with about 6 minutes left in an 84-68 victory over Alabama on Tuesday night when teammate Phil Pressey landed on his leg underneath the Missouri basket. Coach Frank Haith believed Bowers sprained the MCL.
Bowers, who missed all last season with a torn ACL in his left knee, will undergo an MRI on Wednesday. Bowers, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes, smacked his hands together, showing his frustration, when he returned to the end of the bench with about 4 minutes to go.
“They’re going to look at it,” Haith said. “We don’t know the extent of it. We’re concerned when any of our guys get hurt.”
Haith said Bowers is one of the team’s most consistent players, with four double-doubles and averaging nearly 17 points and seven rebounds.
Jabari Brown hit a career-high five straight 3-pointers for Missouri after an early miss and Pressey responded from a shaky first half with 11 points and 13 assists. Pressey slightly sprained an ankle when he collided with Bowers but missed less than a minute.
Trevor Releford had a career-best 26 points with three 3-pointers and topped 1,000 points for Alabama (8-6, 0-1), which has lost six of eight. Coach Anthony Grant lost for the first time in seven career conference openers, three at VCU and four at Alabama.
Missouri shot 59 percent from the field in the second half. The Tigers shot 56 percent overall and were 9 for 15 from 3-point range.
“We couldn’t get stops,” Grant said. “To me, that was the story of the second half. Whether it was the press, transition, half-court, we did not defend the way we would need to defend to be able to come on the road against an opponent like Missouri and get a win.”
Brown scored a career-high 22 points on 7-for-11 overall shooting, three days after making only one of nine attempts in a two-point victory over Bucknell. The Oregon transfer has scored in double figures in four of five games since becoming eligible at the semester break.
“Coach always tells me, ‘Don’t get down on yourself, don’t let one play discourage you,'” Brown said. “So I’ve just been having that mindset and I’m glad that game was history.
“It feels like the basket gets bigger out there.”
Earnest Ross added a season-best 19 points for Missouri (12-2, 1-0) and Alex Oriakhi helped the Tigers pull away with 10 of his 16 points over the final 11 minutes. He grabbed 11 rebounds. Oriakhi powered for two inside baskets in a 9-2 run that put the Tigers up 62-51 with 9 minutes to go and Alabama got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
“Just being aggressive,” Oriakhi said. “I posted harder and my teammates found me.”
Releford, who is from Kansas City and was recruited by Missouri, scored 19 points in the first half to top his average of 15.6. But he took just one shot over the first 8½ minutes of the second half. The junior is the 46th player in school history to score 1,000 points but just the seventh with 1,000 points and 140 steals.
Releford said about 30 supporters were in a crowd of 13,895, the biggest of the season but a little more than 1,000 shy of capacity.
“I think it was a good opportunity to come back and play close to home and have my family come out and see me play,” Releford said. “But I treated this game like any other SEC game.
“I just wanted to come in, get a win and worry about the next game after that.”
Pressey had eight assists in the first half, largely negated by four turnovers including two giveaways in a span of just over a minute. One was so glaring he grabbed Levi Randolph for an intentional foul.
Missouri survived those mistakes behind 6-for-10 3-point shooting, with Brown going 3 for 4 and Ross 2 for 2.
Alabama’s best stretch was a 12-0 run for a 19-17 lead, with two baskets apiece from Releford and Pollard.
Missouri won despite getting out rebounded for the second straight game, giving up a 32-27 advantage to Alabama after Bucknell had a 39-38 edge. The Tigers lead the nation in rebounding and out rebounded their first 12 opponents.