COLUMBIA — Four seconds felt like forever.
Nobody in the press room said a word following his response.
“Look, Mike (Dixon) hadn’t played with us all year, so we are who we are right now,” coach Frank Haith said.
Saturday, the men’s basketball team took its first step without its former guard Michael Dixon Jr. after he announced his transfer from the university following two sexual assault allegations coming to light.
The Tigers came out strong, beating Appalachian State 72-56.
“Well, we had almost a week to prepare,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said.
But he wasn’t just talking about Appalachian State.
Instead, the focal leader of a team still searching for the right chemistry was talking about the adversity his team had faced this week.
“We really came together after the Mike (Dixon) situation. He’s our brother. We hate that it happened, but it did. We’ve just got to continue to build the chemistry on this team because this is the team we’ve been playing with since the beginning,” Bowers said. “We’ve just got to continue to work, and we’re going to pray for Mike.”
Saturday, Bowers tied a career high with 23 points.
The Tigers will certainly miss Dixon. He was voted preseason Second-Team All-SEC. He’s an explosive scorer. He can handle the ball as well as Phil Pressey and is a threat in full-court press.
But Missouri still has options, as it has proved early on this year.
“We have a lot of capable scorers, that’s the strength of our team. I think we have five guys averaging double figures,” Bowers said.
Saturday, four players finished in double figures. Bowers had 23, forward Earnest Ross had 13, guard Keion Bell had 12, and forward Tony Criswell had 10.
Help is also on the way.
Freshman guard Negus Webster-Chan, who got his second start of the season, now is being counted on as the secondary ball handler of the team, and a former five-star recruit, freshman guard Jabari Brown, will be eligible to play Dec. 17 against South Carolina State.
“(Brown) has got to be ready to go right away,” Haith said. “I do see him being an intricate part because he is an offensive guy that can score the ball. It’s nice to have another guy that can stretch defenses.”
This was not an easy week for Missouri (6-1), but Saturday, the Tigers proved their point.
This is a team that is not easily fazed.
“Obviously, we talked about adversity, distractions. All of those things are part of a team sport, and we had a little bit of that this week,” Haith said.
“They understand we must play the game today, we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play and move forward as we will do for the rest of the year.”
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.