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Stefan Jankovic gives Missouri basketball second-half spark

Saturday, December 8, 2012 | 7:27 p.m. CST; updated 10:10 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 8, 2012
Missouri forwards Stefan Jankovic, left, and Laurence Bowers block a shot by Tennessee State forward Kellen Thornton in the second half of the game Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Bowers led all scorers with 18 points, and Jankovic added 14.

COLUMBIA— Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi sat back relaxed, his arms stretched over the backs of two chairs.

He watched freshman Stefan Jankovic shoot the basketball over and over from here, from there and back again after the Appalachian State game last Saturday.

Jankovic's teammate freshman Negus Webster-Chan stood on the other side of the court, also working on his shot.

"We have some very hungry freshmen," Oriakhi said.

Jankovic was especially starving for some playing time; he only had three minutes in the game against Appalachian State and no playing time against Southeast Missouri State.

He got the nod to play from coach Frank Haith in the second half of the 68-38 victory against Tennessee State on Saturday afternoon.

Before the game, Oriakhi told Jankovic the team needed his energy, and Jankovic delivered.

Jankovic scored 14 points, two of them from 3-point range. He shot jumpers, drove the ball and had a two-handed put-back dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

"I find myself in practice trying my hardest," Jankovic said. "I'm going against guys like Alex (Oriakhi) and Laurence (Bowers) in practice, so I'm ready."

Haith said he liked how Jankovic kept practicing despite not getting much playing time and didn't feel sorry about himself.

"Stef kept a great attitude, and that gives yourself a chance when you have an opportunity (to play)," Haith said. "He was disappointed after the last game, but he went to work right after the game."

Haith said Jankovic had some great offensive plays, but really praised his ability to defend against Tennessee State's large players. Jankovic had a block and five rebounds in the game.

"I guarantee when we chart our tape, he contested more shots than anybody," Haith said. "He was running around blocking shots, contesting shots. That's what going to keep you on the court."

Jankovic returned to the bench in the waning minutes of the game. All his teammates gave him high-fives and some rubbed his hair. Jankovic sat, looking down, with a big smile on his face.


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