COLUMBIA — When the buzzer sounded, some fans were still booing.
Frank Haith took his time.
He slowly walked off the court toward the tunnel, biting his bottom lip, glaring at the floor. His players jogged right by, single file, careful not to get in his lane.
The No. 14 ranked team in the nation had just spent the first half shooting 23.1 percent. They turned the ball over seven times, had only two assists and made nine shots in 20 minutes.
The Missouri men's basketball team was still ahead, though. But Alcorn State, a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2002, trailed just 30-23.
“He got on us,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said. “Coach got under us, and we came out in the second half with a fire under us. That halftime speech, it was a spark.”
Missouri started the second half on a 13-3 run, led by Bowers who scored all of his 14 points in the half, and junior forward Earnest Ross, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the second period. The Tigers shot 58.6 percent, turned the ball over two times and paired nine assists with 17 baskets.
They won 91-54 on Tuesday at Mizzou Arena.
The final buzzer sounded, and the stadium filled with cheers.
Haith shook hands with the opposing team and slowly walked toward the tunnel. His players jogged right by, single file, some smiling, others slapping hands with fans, careful not to get in his lane.
“That’s why a game is 40 minutes, not 20,” junior guard Phil Pressey said, who had 21 points in the game.
Despite being concerned after the first half, Haith understands that this team is still trying to mesh. Only one player on the court Tuesday played on last year’s team.
Missouri won the game, and in the end, that's all that matters.
“I’m always going to be encouraged as long as we finish up the way we need to finish up,” Haith said. “This team is a work in progress. We’re not where we are going to be in January. We’re not where we are going to be in February. This team is going to get better.”
Other top performers for the Tigers included senior forward Alex Oriakhi, who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Ross who also had a double-double, adding 10 rebounds.
Missouri (2-0) will have another chance to improve upon Tuesday night’s first half performance when it faces Nicholls State at 7 p.m Friday at home.
“We know that we did not come out well,” Bowers said. “Phil (Pressey) and I, we’re definitely not going to let this happen again as captains. Next game, we need to put two halves together, and I think that’s what we’re going to do. We are going to come out with a better focus.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.