Bowers helps Missouri men's basketball recover from slow first half

Saturday, November 10, 2012 | 6:19 p.m. CST; updated 3:27 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Missouri men's basketball team won its season opener against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — Fans looking to relieve the stress caused by the Missouri football teams's quadruple overtime victory didn't find it inside Mizzou Arena — at least for the first half of the Missouri men's basketball team's season opener Saturday against SIU-Edwardsville.

Senior forward Laurence Bowers prevented a similarly close game with his second-half performance in the Tigers' 83-69 victory.

The Cougars started off on a hot streak from the 3-point line, scoring 21 points from long range in the first half to lead the Tigers for much of the first half.

SIU-Edwardsville forward Jerome Jones made several clean 3-pointers, one with Missouri guard Keion Bell putting a hand right in front of his face and another with Tigers guard Earnest Ross also blocking his sight.

The Tigers were ahead 40-34 at halftime.

In the second half, SIU-Edwardville's 3-point shooting waned, and the Tigers raced to a double-digit lead they maintained for the rest of the game.

Bowers led the effort to dismantle the Cougars in the second half. Missouri point guard Phil Pressey found Bowers waiting for him on the other side of a screen for a deep two-point jumper with 15:16 to play. A few plays later, it was the same scene, another Bowers basket from right inside the 3-point line on another assist from Pressey.

Bowers said his improved shooting and range was a side-effect of the season-ending knee injury he suffered last year. Because Bowers couldn't engage in rough contact, he did "a ton" of shooting while recovering.

"He's a better shooter. He's really worked hard at shooting the basketball," coach Frank Haith said. "That's what we challenged him to do to make his game more well-rounded. He had two on the line, long twos. We're comfortable with Laurence taking a 3-point shot."

Then came a Bowers play that showed the crowd he was 100 percent healthy and ready for this year's campaign.

Bowers got the ball on a pass from Pressey, steamed straight toward the rim like a runaway locomotive, elevated and jammed the ball through the hoop. The two Cougars defenders under the rim quickly moved out of his way.

"That's the first time I dunked in a game in a long time," Bowers said. "It's just two points, though. I think our offensive execution was good in spurts, and that's what led to it."

Bowers showed flashes of Saturday's performance in practice, according to Haith.

"He had one the other day in practice where he came down a lane and had a tomahawk (dunk) with a guy rotating, and he tried to dunk over him," Haith said. "That's the first time I've seen him do that."

SIU-Edwardsville coach Lennox Forrester called a timeout immediately after Bowers' dunk, which gave the crowd a chance to chant "MIZ-ZOU" and celebrate.

Bowers led Missouri in scoring with 20 points and added seven rebounds. It was the third game in a row where a Tigers player scored at least 20 points and topped off the game with a powerful dunk.

Pressey, who had 19 points and eight assists, seemed to develop some better chemistry with forward Alex Oriakhi but not everything worked well.

Oriakhi caught one of Pressey's passes for a dunk in the post in the first half to give Missouri a lead. However, in the second half, Pressey zipped the ball past Oriakhi and into the stands.

"I think he's still not sure, in terms of where his opportunities are going to come," Haith said. "So he's missing those because he's not quite ready yet. We'll get better with that because we're going to keep coming to him."

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