Tigers Win SEC Opener 84-68

Tuesday evening, the #10/12 Missouri Tigers (12-2, 1-0) defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-6, 0-1) by the final score of 84-68 in their first SEC conference game.

On Tuesday evening, the #10/12 Missouri Tigers (12-2, 1-0) defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-6, 0-1) by the final score of 84-68.

"(In the second half), we were really efficient on offense,"  said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith.    "I thought we handled their pressure.  We only turned the ball over ten times.   And, I thought we got good looks."

With 17:47 remaining in a game that had featured five lead changes, Jabari Brown hit a three-pointer that broke a 40-40 tie, and put Missouri ahead to stay, as the Tigers gradually pulled away in the second half.  Brown finished with a career-high 22 points on just 11 shots, as he made good on 5 of his 7 three-point attempts.  

"Obviously, we got a great game out of Jabari,"   said Coach Haith.    "And, he defended too!"

For Missouri, Earnest Ross came off the bench to score 19 points, and Laurence Bowers scored 16 points before leaving the floor late in the game with a knee injury.   A few minutes later, Bowers returned to the bench with a slight limp, but he did not re-enter the game, which by that point was well in hand.

The Tigers had two players record double-doubles on the night, as Alex Oriakhi scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Phil Pressey scored 11 points and handed out 13 assists.

Missouri shot 57% from the field, and 60% from beyond the arc, while recording 18 assists on 30 made baskets, against just 10 turnovers against the Alabama defensive pressure.

For the second straight game, the Tigers were out-rebounded, as Alabama claimed a 32-27 advantage in the battle of the boards, but after trailing 14-18 in the first half on points in the paint, Missouri came back in the second half and established their inside game, and attacked the basket, finishing the night with a 40-28 advantage on points in the paint.

The Tigers got off quickly in their Southeastern Conference debut, jumping out to a 15-5 lead before the first TV timeout.   But, the Crimson Tide fought their way back, and briefly took a 23-20 lead with 7:06 remaining in the first half.  During that Alabama run, Coach Haith had substituted liberally, and Missouri had trouble against Alabama's defensive pressure.  By the time that Jabari Brown hit back-to-back threes to put Missouri ahead 32-30 with 3:17 remaining in the first half, the Tigers had committed 5 turnovers, including 3 by Phil Pressey.

Missouri went to the halftime locker room with a 40-36 lead.

For Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant's Crimson Tide, 6'0"  195-pound junior guard Travis Releford had scored 19 first-half points on just 9 field goal attempts.  But in the second half, Missouri did a better job of defending the pick and roll, and Brown, Pressey, and other Missouri defenders fought their way over the screens instead of switching, as they had in the first period.  On the night, Releford finished with 26 points.

Laurence Bowers led Missouri with 12 points in the first half, and Earnest Ross and Brown had 10 points, and 9 points, respectively, before intermission.  Alabama had out-rebounded Missouri 16-12 in the first half, and had outscored Missouri 18-14 on points in the paint.

Missouri had shot 54% from the floor, including 60% from 3-PT range, in the first half, largely the result of fast breaks created by beating the Alabama press.  The Tide had also shot the ball well in the first half (48%), as Missouri's first-half defense was sub-par.  On the night, Alabama shot 44%, and just 29% from 3-PT land.

Missouri survived a 4-0 Alabama run to open the second half, as the Tigers answered with back-to-back-to-back three-pointers by Brown, Brown again, and Ross to open up a 51-44 lead with 15:53.

With under 15 minutes remaining, Coach Haith went with a smaller line-up that featured Ross and Bowers, Pressey, Brown, and Negus Webster-Chan.  But, the Tigers were unable to distance themselves from Alabama, and with 11:39 remaining, Missouri held on to a 55-49 lead.

From there, the Tigers began to increase their lead.  With Alex Oriakhi back on the floor, Missouri led 64-56 with 7:35 remaining.  A minute and a half later, Brown found Oriakhi in the lane with a bounce pass for a layup and one, and then Brown came back with a layup of his own on a drive down the middle of the lane.   Pressey fouled Releford on the other end, and Missouri led 72-63 with 3:43 remaining.  From there, Missouri continued to pull away.

"That was great to see,"   explained Coach Haith.   "We worked the last four minutes.   When you have a 10-point lead, which we had, we stretched it to 16 and 18.  That was good to see."

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