Missouri men's basketball cruises past Nicholls State

Friday, November 16, 2012 | 9:08 p.m. CST; updated 3:46 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 17, 2012
Missouri forward Laurence Bowers blocks Nicholls State guard Fred Hunter on Friday night during a 74-54 victory.

COLUMBIA — Chants of "offense" filled Mizzou Arena during Friday night's game against Nicholls State after another inefficient first half.

Missouri started off shooting 39.3 percent, an improvement over 23.1 percent on Tuesday against Alcorn State. Missouri head coach Frank Haith said Nicholls State's unorthodox offense also contributed to a sloppy first half.

"It's one of those games where you're not going to knock them out," Haith said. "I think that sometimes you get to the point where you look at the score where you want to be up 20 or 30, against a team like that, its not going to happen."

Haith said that despite the slow start, he was still impressed with the focus and energy his team started with.

Halftime would once again be the catalyst as Missouri went on to a 74-54 victory.

"They brought the tack to us early in the ball game," Haith said. "But I thought we did much better job of (getting the ball inside) in the second half."

The Tigers started the second half with a 17-5 run. Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi cleanly fielded an alley-oop dunk and guard Keion Bell knocked a Nicholls State defender over like a bowling pin en route to a high-flying layup, getting fouled for Missouri. The Colonels ended with 24 total fouls, with 17 of them in the second half.

"We're not a flame-throwing team," Haith said. "We're a physical team, and we have to play that way. When you play that way, you're going to get to the free throw line."

Oriakhi was fouled by the Colonels all night giving him the chance to shoot 9-of-10 free throws, six attempts coming after halftime. The forward led the Tigers with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Missouri guard Earnest Ross helped bolster Missouri's lead with 16 points — 9 of those points were 3-pointers.

Last year's National Invitation Tournament champion, Stanford is coming up in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving. Missouri's first half performance will need to be more productive.

"I feel like we don't play with energy until we're in a hole," Oriakhi said. "That definitely has to change, especially with the competition coming up. I think we come up flat and that's a mental thing."

Haith is still optimistic about the team's progress after Friday's game. He said his vision for the team is nearing completion.

"We're really close to get to the level we need to be at," Haith said. "I'm excited about where this team is headed."

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