Missouri men's basketball rolls past South Carolina State

Monday, December 17, 2012 | 8:48 p.m. CST; updated 1:08 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The Missouri Tigers faced South Carolina State on Monday night at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers defeated South Carolina State 102-51.

COLUMBIA — There were no questions about slow starts or putting the opponent away for Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith in the postgame press conference.

No. 12-ranked Missouri played extremely well for all 40 minutes, demolishing South Carolina State 102-51 on Monday night at Mizzou Arena.

Haith had plenty of compliments for his team. He said he was happy the Tigers started the game at a high intensity level and liked how his team played in transition, things Haith had said he wanted to improve on last week when the team took a break from competition for exams.

He was impressed by the players he critiqued a week ago.

Last Monday, Haith had said Pressey was "probing" and not aggressive enough.

Against South Carolina State, Pressey went straight to the paint right after tipoff and hit his high-arching signature floater. He was fired up as he pedaled back to play defense.

The point guard drove again a few plays later, this time right into into a wall of Bulldogs defenders at the post. He couldn't find an open teammate, so instead, he scored on a difficult one-handed shot leaving the crowd amazed.

Pressey scored only six points but often found open teammates when the Bulldogs' defense focused on him. Pressey led the team with six assists.

"Phil was outstanding," Haith said. "Phil played like Phil, and that's what we need Phil to do. He was terrific."

Guard Earnest Ross also had a great night. Ross led the team with 16 points, a much better performance than the Tigers' past two games before Monday, when he only scored three points.

In the second half, Ross unleashed a one-handed dunk over South Carolina State forward Darryl Palmer that instantly brought the fans out of their seats. Freshman Negus Webster-Chan celebrated with several jabs to Ross's chest.

"By the time I pump faked and took a dribble, I was already intending on dunking on somebody," Ross said with a big smile.

It was smooth sailing all game long for Missouri, which held a double-digit lead for most of the contest.

Forward Alex Oriakhi laughed with his arms around guard Keion Bell's shoulder as they walked past the Golden Girls on the court during a second half stoppage of play, enjoying the lead.

Bell had 12 points. He was one of five Tigers in double digits Tuesday. Every Missouri player on the roster had playing time.

Senior Laurence Bowers also had a great night, hitting his career 1,000th point on a layup. Bowers had 11 points against the Bulldogs.

Haith credited the team's quality play to a series of intense and competitive practices last week.

"This week, I wanted our to guys to compete," Haith said. "I wanted us to become a better basketball team, so I challenged them."

Missouri hopes the big victory gives them confidence entering a game against undefeated No. 10 Illinois on Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

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