Missouri basketball's Phil Pressey still shines despite poor shooting

Saturday, December 22, 2012 | 10:01 p.m. CST
Missouri's Phil Pressey drives into the lane in the second half of the 2012 Braggin' Rights game Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — It took 36 minutes and 49 seconds for Missouri point guard Phil Pressey to make his first field goal.

Pressey drove the ball to the paint, stopped on a dime and lofted his floater shot into the basket on his 16th attempt on the night.

"Floater," someone in the crowd yelled in excitement as Pressey's shot hit its apex.

Pressey's basket put the Tigers up 70-64 with 4:11 left in the game.

Missouri guard Negus Webster-Chan celebrated by screaming with a towel around his neck, as the ball rattled in.

A timeout was called. Missouri forward Stefan Jankovic ran off the bench, wide-eyed, big smile on his face, to congratulate his teammate's first field goal of the night.

The Missouri side of the Scottrade Center stood and cheered. The Illinois side was quiet.

Pressey had a down night shooting, but still had a positive effect on the offense in Saturday's 82-73 Braggin' Rights victory against Illinois.

The Missouri point guard only made 3-of-19 baskets on the night but he didn't appear bothered by the statistics.

The Missouri point guard ended the night with 12 points, half of them on free throws.

The effects of Pressey's inaccurate shots were canceled out by quality rebounding. Forward Alex Oriakhi often helped fix the situation by snatching the ball away from Illinois and securing it like a running back. Oriakhi had 14 rebounds.

"Even though I was missing those shots, I felt like it was an opportunity for our bigs to clean up those misses," Pressey said. "My dad always told me, 'If you can't pass it, just throw it up and your big will get a rebound.'"

Coach Frank Haith rolled his eyes and smiled as Pressey told the anecdote about his father.

"We can't let nobody know that's our game plan," Haith said joking in response, his voice raspy from shouting plays in the roaring arena.

Pressey played selfless basketball for the entire game. The junior navigated the Illini defense, finding his teammates for momentous baskets. He had 11 assists.

Late in the game, Pressey found forward Laurence Bowers on a low skip pass for a dunk to put the game out of reach for Illinois.

Pressey's support for the team was also helpful. Every time Pressey's teammates responded to one of Illinois' runs, Pressey motioned to the Missouri fans to make some noise. Pressey was very vocal in the huddle, coming up with ways to help motivate Missouri to stop the Illinois offense.

"Having Phil Pressey get us in the huddle as a point guard, it really benefited us today," Bowers said.

Pressey made an effort to end the game on a high note, chasing a loose ball, full speed, for a layup with three seconds left. Pressey ran down the court as time expired, celebrating.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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