COLUMBIA – The Tigers struggled early but managed a comfortable win over Southeast Missouri State on Friday.
Early in the first half, Missouri trailed by 7 points against the Redhawks. Throughout the first half, there were four ties, and the Redhawks continued to lead through much of the way.
By the end of the first half, the Tigers didn't have much to show for their play. Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe had only one defensive rebound, and the scoreboard read 38-36 in favor of Missouri.
"I knew I only had one rebound, so I was just waiting for (Coach Frank Haith) to say something about it," Ratliffe said. "So I just tried to go out and get every rebound I could during the second half."
Ratliffe finished with 8 rebounds, and the Tigers took control after halftime.
In the first minute of the second half, senior guard Matt Pressey sent a bounce pass between two SEMO defenders, and Ratliffe easily placed it in the basket for two of his 20 points. It put the Tigers up 4. They went on to lead by as many as 17 points in an 83-68 win.
Former Missouri player Tyler Stone, who transferred to SEMO, lead the Redhawks' fight and contributed a team-high 18 points.
"Tyler Stone played his," senior guard Kim English said. "We don't want anybody to lay down for us."
SEMO coach Dickey Nutt said he was proud of the way his team played, especiallybecause they were missing one of their key players, senior forward Leon Powell. Last season, Powell led the nation in field goal shooting at 63 percent and led the Redhawks in scoring at 14 points per game.
"Our guys played hard, and they played with a lot of passion. They felt like they could win regardless. But baby, nobody outside our locker felt like we could win," Nutt said. "And our guys played hard, without our best player."
Missouri coach Frank Haith said SEMO fought hard and played well.
"In the first half, defensively, I don't think we were where we needed to be," Haith said. "I think we played a lot better in the second half after I challenged the guys a little bit."
This game was Haith's first regular season win as the Missouri head basketball coach, but he said he wasn't particularly emotional about this game.
"I'm emotional all the time when we start playing games," Haith said. "When there's a score kept on the board for real, that's exciting."