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Columbia Missourian

Little time to celebrate for Missouri men's basketball team

By Justin Yang
December 25, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST
The Missouri men's basketball team won its fourth straight against Illinois in the 32-year-old series Saturday in St. Louis.

COLUMBIA — The players on the Missouri men's basketball team relished their tough 82-73 victory over Illinois in the Braggin' Rights game Saturday night in St.Louis.

The team posed for photographs in front of the Braggin' Rights trophy making silly faces.


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Senior forward Laurence Bowers hoisted the oversized trophy for the last time in his career and paraded it in front of Missouri fans after the game.

Junior Phil Pressey and coach Frank Haith joked about Pressey's shooting woes in the postgame press conference.

The victory celebration didn't last long, though. There was work to be done, starting early Sunday.

"This win was great," Bowers said Saturday night. "But at midnight it's on to our next game, preparation for UCLA."

The Tigers (10-1) will need to play with the same intensity and focus they used against Illinois when they travel to play UCLA on Friday in Westwood, Calif.

Although the Bruins (9-3) are not ranked because of early season losses, they are on a four-game winning streak. While the Missouri and Illinois battled it out Saturday in St. Louis, UCLA overcame an early deficit to defeat visiting Fresno State 91-78.

UCLA freshmen Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson combined for 72 points and 31 rebounds in the victory. Muhammad, one of the nation's top recruits, is making 47.8 percent of his 3-pointers and is averaging 18.8 points per game.

As a team, UCLA knows how to find open players for baskets, and the Bruins are sixth in the nation in assists. The Bruins' Larry Drew II had 10 assists and one turnover in 35 minutes, the fourth time he has had 10 or more this season.

But Missouri looked capable of dealing with a talented opponent on Saturday. The physical game against Illinois featured 19 lead changes, 35 fouls and 43 free throws, but the Tigers' defense shined in the final minutes, and they finished with a 58-35 rebounding advantage.

"They've got a lot of depth and they've got size," Illinois first-year coach John Groce told the Associated Press. "They're good now. They've got a chance to get even better moving forward."

Note: UCLA's Drew II, a 6-foot-2 guard, is notable for Missouri fans. His father, Larry Drew, Sr., was a standout player for the Tigers from 1976 to 1980 under Norm Stewart. Drew, Sr. went on to play 10 years in the NBA and is now in his third season as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks.