COLUMBIA — The Missouri men's basketball team was frustrated.
Guard Earnest Ross looked up to the lights and yelled a profanity after a foul. He smacked his hands together making a sound that echoed through Mizzou Arena.
Tigers coach Frank Haith paced the sidelines with his hands on his hips. He asked the referees at midcourt to explain their calls. He returned to his bench with the same frustrated demeanor, shaking his head and looking down.
Missouri guard Phil Pressey's signature 3-point and floater shots weren't falling. He was 3-for-14, 1-for-6 from 3-point range, in the first period, and the Tigers were trailing Southeast Missouri State 45-35 at halftime.
Then the Tigers responded.
In the second half, Missouri found its shooting touch and increased its defensive efforts to rally for a 81-65 victory Tuesday night a Mizzou Arena.
Missouri chased the Redhawks off the 3-point line and contested every shot, including their dunk attempts.
They responded to a SEMO team that was determined to win Tuesday night.
"We thought we could win from the time we started," SEMO coach Dickey Nutt said. "From the time we thought about this game until the time we got here.
Our guys look forward to a game like this, this is our Superbowl game."
Missouri seniors Keion Bell and Laurence Bowers propelled Missouri's second-half efforts.
Bell had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Bowers had a career-high 26 points, surpassing his 23-point effort against Appalachian State on Saturday.
Pressey also rebounded from his first-half shooting woes. He shot only four times in the second half but found his way to the free-throw line and finished the night with 17 points.
But it was Bell's tenacious defense that helped Missouri close out the rollercoaster-like game against SEMO — one physical play at a time.
In the second half, Bell raced downcourt to chase SEMO guard Marland Smith as he was preparing to take off for a dunk. As Smith leaped towards the basket, Bell came from behind to swat the ball.
The referee called a foul because Bell got a hand on Smith's face, but the play energized the team and brought the crowd to its feet. Afterward, Missouri went on an 11-point run to take the lead.
Bell, a transfer, was known for his scoring abilities during his time at Pepperdine. Fans will remember Bell for his defense if he keeps playing like he did Tuesday night.
"It wasn't that much of a change for me," Bell said about his change from scorer to defender. "Just using my athleticism on defense … I've always had the potential to be an excellent defender, I haven't reached that potential yet, but I believe I've made steps in the right direction."
Haith said he was happy with Bell's performance. Haith said he knows it isn't easy for Bell, who is used to scoring a lot of points, to change roles to help his team to win, especially in his last year of college basketball.
"He should be commended for his attitude," Haith said.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.