On Saturday, the #16/15 Missouri Tigers (6-1) defeated the Appalachian State Mountaineers (1-6) by the final score of 72-56.
Missouri jumped out to an early lead behind 21 first-half points from Laurence Bowers and took a 39-21 lead to the halftime locker room.
Jason Capel’s Mountaineers are not a very good team, especially on the defensive end, and the Tigers were able to get good shots at the basket simply by moving the basketball and exercising a little patience. But, give the Mountaineers credit, as they came out after halftime and cut Missouri’s lead to 39-25 in the first minute-and-a-half of play. Appalachian State, who was led in scoring by 6’6” red-shirt sophomore Jay Canty with 29 points, continued to play hard throughout the game.
After that initial second-half surge by the Mountaineers, Missouri went on a 7-0 run, and the Tigers never looked back.
For the game, Bowers scored 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting, and grabbed 5 rebounds.
Once again, Coach Haith had Negus Webster-Chan in the starting line-up, with Keion Bell coming off of the bench. Initially, Bell entered the game in place of Earnest Ross, but Bell and Ross also logged minutes on the floor together. Ross finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, and Bell scored 12 points and grabbed 6 boards.
Tony Criswell continued to play well, and scored 10 points off of the bench, on 5 of 8 shooting in 19 minutes. Criswell was substituted for Bowers and also for Oriakhi, although freshman Ryan Rosburg logged 13 minutes, as well.
For the game, Missouri held a 45-31 rebounding advantage, outscored the Mountaineers 42-24 on points in the paint, and held a 17-10 advantage in second chance points.
It was evident from the outset that Coach Haith and the Tigers have been working on running better offense, with a focus on better shot selection. That’s an area where Missouri continues to need work, as the Tigers took too many forced or otherwise low percentage shots against the Mountaineers.
In addition, Missouri continues to turn the ball over too much, and finished with 17 turnovers for the game.
The Missouri coaching staff is molding this group into a team. I noticed subtle improvements against Appalachian State, although the Tigers continue to be a work in progress. Post-game quotes from Coach Haith and players:
Mizzou Basketball Post Game Quotes Head Coach Frank Haith Opening Statement… “I thought it was a great game for us. I thought we came out with great intent on both ends of the court. Defensively, we were really good. Laurence (Bowers) was outstanding scoring the ball in the first half. All in all it was a really good win for us.” On a difficult week off the court… “It’s just great to play. I love playing games, so it was great to get back out there. We had a week off and with a week off , you have hard practices. So it was good to just get out there. Mike hasn’t played for us all year, so we are who we are right now.” On the teams turnover problems… “We only had five at the half. It was (more in) the second half. I think that is the thing that this team has to really get better with. We don’t really have that killer instinct just yet. When we have a team down, we need to really go after it. A couple of those plays taken off in the second half, that’s something, we have to get better with. A lot of those turnovers were from our interior guys, they’re just bad ball handlers.” On expectations of Negus Webster-Chan… “Negus gives us a secondary ball handler and I like to start the game now with him. He has established himself being that guy. When Negus is our back up point, it is tough for him to go in at that point when he subs for Phil (Pressey). My theory behind doing this is he gets a sweat and he is getting lathered up, so when he does go (to the point) he isn’t dry.” On Keion Bell and his adjustment to coming off the bench… “Keion has really bought into (the concept of) coming off the bench. He probably has never come off the bench in his life, but he is doing well with it. Hopefully he will continue to grow in that role. Phil said it best; being a great defender and a great rebounder, your offense will take care of itself. He had three steals and six rebounds off the bench. That is good stuff for us. It isn’t about who starts the game, it is about who finishes. In the game against VCU, the game was still in (doubt) and he was in the game because he is a good free throw shooter. We have to continue getting him acclimated to our role for him and he is doing a good job of it.” On Laurence Bowers’ transition to becoming a featured scorer... “We don’t really talk about being a go-to guy right now. We have a number of guys that can score. Laurence has really worked hard on his game and he is becoming a well-rounded player. That is what I have talked to him about. Not just being a slasher or going to the basket but expanding your game and being able to shoot the three.” On Tony Criswell’s improvement… “Tony can score the ball, but I have asked him to be more like Steve Moore, an energy guy. Steve’s stamina didn’t allow him to play long stretches but Tony can do that... take charges, get on the floor and create extra possessions. That’s what I want Tony to do. But Tony also has the ability to score and that’s a nice luxury to have.” Junior Guard, Phil Pressey On the new players adapting to the passing game… “It’s about getting the feel for my teammates. In practice, it’s hard to do because everyone on the team knows how I pass. So in the games it’s just Laurence, he knows me like the back of his hand, he knows the pass I am going to do before I do, so it just takes time.” On having Keion come off the bench and produce… “Every single game, Keion gives energy and I feel like if he keeps doing what he is on the defensive side, and if you play good defense and rebounding, his offense will take care of itself.” On facilitating the ball more during this game… “In the Bahamas, I felt like I wasn’t really trusting my teammates and this was a big game for me to get that going. Laurence started off playing well and shooting the ball, and I feel like if I can get everyone going on the offensive end, and that’s just the first step in getting our chemistry right.” Mizzou Senior Forward, Laurence Bowers On scoring this afternoon… “I just wanted to come out and help the team in the first half. I mean a lot my shots, I was the beneficiary of a great pass. We always preach good shot versus great shot and all of my shots, I believe, were great shots because they were in the rhythm of the offense. I thought the flip-flop from the first and the second half just happened that way today. I am just going to continue to work and get better and help my team.” On improving his three-point shot… “Just repetition, just when you work on something a lot. It just comes natural and I just try to work on my perimeter shots all the time before and after practices. I just need to be consistent. I have guys to motivate me to shoot after practice.” On the relief of getting back on the court… “We had almost a week, I believe, to prepare and I thought guys really paid heed to what Coach was saying in practice, and we really came together after the Mike situation. He is our brother, and we hate that it happened, but it did. So, we just have to continue to build the chemistry of this team. This is the team we have been playing with since the beginning. We just have to continue to work, and we are going to pray for Mike and get ready for SEMO.”
Post-Game Notes: Today's game was the first ever meeting between Missouri and Appalachian State.
Laurence Bowers matched his career high in scoring this afternoon. Bowers finished with 23 points, matching the 23 he scored against Georgia at Mizzou Arena during the 2009-10 season. Bowers scored 21 of his 23 points in the opening half.
Bowers topped 20 points for the second time this season. He opened the year with 20 points in the season-opening win against SIUE and now has six career 20-point games.
Bowers tied a career high with three three-point field goals. He also had three against Alcorn State earlier this year.
Missouri won its 69th consecutive game at home vs. non-league opposition.
Missouri has now won 21 consecutive games in the month of December dating back to Dec. 9, 2009.
Also in double digits was Keion Bell who scored 12 points. It was his third double digit scoring effort of the season and second straight since coming off the bench.
Missouri finished the game out-rebounding Appalachian State 45-31. The Tigers have out-rebounded all-seven opponents this season. Missouri is ranked among the Top 10 nationally in rebounding.
Mizzou outscored Appalachian State in the paint by a margin of 42-24. The 42 points tied a season high (vs. SIUE).
The Tigers also enjoyed 26 points off the bench, the most for the club this season.
Tony Criswell had a double-figure scoring game with 10 points. It's his first double digit scoring performance as a Tiger and just two points shy of his career high from his time at UAB.
As a team, Mizzou had 10 steals. It's the second time this season that the Tigers have recorded double-digit steals.
Freshman Negus Webster Chan earned his second start of the season tonight vs. the Mountaineers.