The Missouri men's basketball team should be thankful for the performances of point guard Phil Pressey and forward Laurence Bowers against Stanford on Thursday afternoon in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas.
Whenever the Cardinal closed in on the Tigers, Pressey or Bowers had an answer, helping No. 13 Missouri pull away for a 78-70 victory.
Pressey's nine assists and 18 points helped the Tigers improve to 4-0. In the first half, Pressey was surrounded by a sea of red but somehow found Bowers with a low bounce pass for a layup. A few plays later, Pressey found forward Alex Oriakhi, who had 13 points, coming off of a screen for a dunk.
After driving into the lane with a blanket of Stanford defenders surrounding him, Pressey kicked the ball out to a wide open Bowers, whose basket put Missouri ahead 62-55 halfway through the second half.
The Tigers also showed off their physicality in the post. Missouri had 38 points come from inside the paint. It seemed as if every time Missouri drove the ball to the basket, a whistle was blown or a basket was made.
Bowers anchored the interior with three blocks and 11 rebounds, and after a strong second half, ended up with a team-high 19 points.
"Second half is when you put the team away," Bowers told The Associated Press. "On an individual standpoint, I would love to play better in the first half, but whenever I get the opportunity to step up for my team, that is what I am going to do. And if that is in the second half, I am going to try and continue to do that."
The effort Missouri coach Frank Haith said he wanted to work on before the start of the tournament showed up against Stanford (3-2). Despite being out-rebounded 23-24 by the Cardinal, the Tigers led with 16 offensive rebounds.
"They made a lot of plays when it counted — a lot of offensive rebound putbacks, beat us to loose balls," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins told the AP. "They did a good job in those areas."
The Cardinal avoided the paint for much of the game, leaning on a heavy dose of jump shots instead. Stanford went on a 12-point scoring run to tie the game at 28 late in the first half. Stanford freshman guard Chasson Randle led the Cardinal with 22 points.
Stanford entered the tournament after losing to Belmont 70-62 last on Sunday. Stanford's second-leading scorer last season, guard Aaron Bright, was out with an ankle injury.
Missouri was also still missing one of its point guards. Mike Dixon traveled with the team to the Bahamas, but did not suit up for the game. He remains suspended for violating team rules.
The Tigers' next tournament game will be Friday against either No. 2 Louisville or Northern Iowa.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.