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Columbia Missourian

Tigers' strong defense makes up for slow start offensively against Tennessee State

By Brendan Meyer
December 8, 2012 | 6:57 p.m. CST
Missouri men's basketball team won over Tennessee State, 68-38, after a slow start in the first half.

COLUMBIA— Seven played, and only three scored.

Laurence Bowers had 15 points. Alex Oriakhi had seven. Earnest Ross had one.

That was it.

One half, 20 minutes, 23 points, and only a three-point lead against Tennessee State, a member of the Ohio Valley conference.

Saturday, the No. 12 Tigers struggled offensively in the first half, shooting 40 percent from the field and 1-8 from the three-point line. They had 11 turnovers.

But Missouri did not struggle defensively.

The Tigers contested shots, rebounded and put pressure on defenders. Tennessee State shot 29.6 percent and had seven turnovers in the half.

“That’s who we’ve got to be anytime. I want to rebound and defend, night in and night out,” coach Frank Haith said. “So, if you’re able to do that, you’re always going to have a chance to be around the game because every night you may not shoot the ball well.”

In the second half, others joined the scoring. Phil Pressey was next.

He made two free throws in the first minutes of the second half and finished the game with five points and three assists.

Freshman guard Negus Webster-Chan was next, making a layup three minutes later. He finished the game with seven points and four assists.

Stefan Jankovic was the sixth, with a put-back dunk that pulled the crowd to its feet. He finished the game with 14 points in 16 minutes. Forward Tony Criswell made a jumper with just over 10 minutes left, and freshman forward Ryan Rosburg hooked in a layup from under the rim.

Senior guard Keion Bell banked a shot off the backboard and later had a breakaway layup.

Everyone who played at least three minutes (nine players) scored. Missouri won 68-38.

Bowers once again led the way for Missouri, scoring a game-high 18 points.

“Obviously, we were able to make some adjustments in the second half,” Haith said.

More players got involved offensively, but the defense stayed the same.

“The defense was great, especially in the second half,” said Oriakhi, who finished the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. “We just responded. We had to get stops, and that’s exactly what we did. From our defensive rebounding to our contested shots, our defense was great.”

Tennessee State shot 19.4 percent from the field in the second half, 23.8 percent overall in the game and was outrebounded by the Tigers 52-27.

Haith said his team still has plenty of room for improvement, though, and stressed consistency.

“We want to get off to good starts,” Haith said. "It’s just a matter of putting together 40 minutes. I think at this point and time of the year, I just want us to play better. Whether it’s early in the game, or first half or second half, or have a complete game.”

Missouri (8-1) has nine days until its next game, Dec. 17 at home against South Carolina State.