COLUMBIA — Standing in the corner with his back to the basket just inside the three point line, Laurence Bowers waited to make his move.
The sophomore forward, normally known more for his high-flying dunks than his jump shot, did the unthinkable. He twisted his body to the left, facing the hoop, and extended backward. The Georgia defender put a hand in his face seemingly defending him perfectly. With a quick flick of the wrist the ball swished through the hoop leaving the Georgia defender in disbelief.
That’s when Bowers knew this wasn’t an ordinary game.
“I don’t know how to explain it, I just kind of felt it tonight,” Bowers said. “After I hit that one turnaround jump shot, I pretty much knew I was going to have a big night,
Coming off the bench for the second-straight game, Bowers established his second straight career-high in points, this time scoring 23 in the Missouri men’s basketball team’s 89-61 win over Georgia. Every shot seemed to find its destination - the bottom of the net. He missed just three shots all game.
“He had a phenomenal game. The first half he was in the zone,” Anderson said. “If you watch him, its just his basketball instincts. He’s where the ball is whether it be offense or defense, running the floor, catching passes…you don’t teach that.”
Earlier in the season Bowers had struggled as a starter. He had difficulty shooting the ball, and averaged only 8 points a game in his five starts. Since coming off the bench Bowers has set back-to-back career-highs in scoring and has only missed three shots total in two games. Anderson said he has noticed the difference in production since the move to the bench, but isn’t sure if there is any correlation.
“To me he’s a starter, whether he comes out first or not,” Anderson said. “But maybe we are on to something, I don’t know."
As a starter, Bowers was picking up fouls too quickly and could never find a rhythm. He said he was never comfortable, but sitting out the start of the game allows him to find that comfort. He can watch and find the weaknesses in the opposing team's defense so he can exploit it. Saturday against Georgia, it was its lack of defending the jump shot.
“Just looking from the bench there was a lot of soft spots, and I just tried to hit those. I noticed they weren’t coming out for the jump shot, and luckily I hit those,” Bowers said.
Once in the game, Bowers used that knowledge to attack Georgia from the perimeter. He was routinely open for jump shots in the corner and the top of the key. Even taking and making a three-point shot, just his third all season. Tiller said he was surprised by how well the forward shot the ball, but rather than question why he was shooting so well, he focused on getting him the ball.
“We always want to find the hot man, and he just happened to be the one that was open as well. So we rolled with it,” Tiller said.
Bowers finished the game making seven jump shots to just four layups, something of an anomaly for the forward who usually relies on driving to the basket. However, Bowers said he was not surprised by how well he shot the ball. Instead, the game was long time in the making. After practice he shoots as many jump shots as it takes until he makes 150.
“I want to be very versatile, I don’t want to be just a guy known for dunking,” Bowers said. “Like Leo and DeMarre were here they could hit the 15-footer and even step out and hit the three. I wanted to step in and fill the void they left.”
With only one game left before conference play, Bowers said this game has given him a major confidence boost.
“I think for any player having a career night like tonight gives a player a ton of confidence," Bowers said. "I know I figure I can do these things, its not something that I second guess anymore.”