COLUMBIA — Missouri fans roared in excitement when Keion Bell leaped and cranked the ball through the rim.
Bell treated the Missouri men's basketball team's exhibition Monday against Northwest Missouri State at Mizzou Arena like the sequel to his winning dunk at Mizzou Madness.
After getting the ball in the second half, Bell sprinted past all the Bearcats' defenders except Matt Wallace and 6-foot-10 center Kyle Schlake. Bell accelerated through the gap between them like a running back with daylight, jumped and jammed the ball through the rim with one hand.
What was left of the crowd cheered loudly. After Missouri rolled to a 53-21 halftime advantage, many Tigers fans had made an early exit.
Bell gave a fierce scowl after he landed, looking intensely at the Bearcats' players he had just dunked on, as he slowly peddled back to play defense.
During the next stoppage of play after a Laurence Bowers foul, Bell turned around and motioned up and down with his hands like a impassioned maestro to turn up the volume in the arena.
Bell dunked earlier in the game, his first dunk as a Tiger, but fans reacted much more to his slam in the game's second half.
Bell, who transferred to MU from Pepperdine University in 2011, gave the Bearcats' defense trouble all night. He had 20 points, second only to guard Earnest Ross' 22-point performance. Bell also showed ferocity on defense, his hand constantly in front of an opposing ball handler, matching their shuffles and steps. Anytime the Bearcats tried to set a screen, Bell would swim right past them.
Coach Frank Haith said in earlier press conferences Bell would play the role of a lockdown defender, and Monday night, Bell played that role well with four steals.
After his final steal of the game, Bell ran past the Bearcats again to see an unguarded hoop — a ripe dunking situation. Like any good sequel, there would be an unexpected twist.
As he rose to the rim for the dunk, the audience held its breath and the Missouri bench stood.
Bell, mid-air, simply pushed the ball off his palm into the the hoop for a simple layup. This time, there was no scowl as Bell looked to his teammates on the sideline flashing his teeth with a big grin. The crowd was stunned but still clapped.
Perhaps it was the 88-56 score at the time, but Haith, who has said he is not a fan of "basketball brouhaha," said he didn't tell Bell not to dunk it.
"That's what he decided to do," Haith said with a smile.