COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri freshman guard Frankie Hughes scored a game-high 23 points in his college basketball debut, leading the Tigers to a 99-44 victory over visiting Alabama A&M in the Tigers' season opener on Sunday night at Mizzou Arena.
Hughes finished nine of 14 from the field and four of nine from 3-point range as the Tigers shot a stellar 63 percent from the field.
“I thought we shared the ball well, we didn’t turn it over a lot,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “We shot it well. (Hughes and Russell Woods) made some big plays. It was a good way to start the home season.”
Missouri jumped out to an early 22-4 lead. Hughes went on a personal 11-0 run at the beginning of the second half. The freshman guard from Cleveland drilled a trio of 3’s and finished the run with a fastbreak slam.
Hughes was removed in the middle of the second half, but the Tigers continued to roll. Freshman forward Willie Jackson, Hughes’ high school teammate, contributed 11 points of his own, shooting five of six from the field. Two of Jackson’s points came on a fastbreak alley-oop from Hughes.
“(Jackson) is an energy guy,” Anderson said. “When that ball goes up on the board, he goes and gets it. Whether the player is two feet tall or 10 feet tall, he goes and gets it.”
Jackson and sophomore forward Kevin Puryear each grabbed nine rebounds to lead all rebounders. The Tigers out-rebounded the Bulldogs 43-29 despite a rough start on the glass.
Alabama A&M (0-2), which lost at Missouri State 96-62 on Friday, struggled offensively, shooting 27 percent from the field after making 35.7 percent in its season opener two nights earlier. The Bulldogs, who went 11-18 last season, committed 15 turnovers and had just one player finish with double-digit points.
Senior forward Russell Woods finished with 12 points, shooting six of seven from the free-throw line. The senior forward made just 14 free throws last season. Sophomore guard Cullen VanLeer shot three of five from 3-point range and Puryear, sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips and freshman forward Mitchell Smith each finished with seven points.
“I thought our guys came out ready to play,” Anderson said. “I thought our staff did a great job of getting guys ready. We weren’t very good eight days ago and we knew we weren’t very good. We really, really practiced well this week.”
Missouri struggled in its exhibition game against Central Missouri, a Division II opponent that finished 14-15 in the 2015-16 season, but squeaked out a 66-59 victory.
Anderson credited a quick turnaround to Mizzou’s improved work ethic.
Missouri will take its 1-0 record to Orlando, where they will face seventh-ranked Xavier (1-0) in the 2016 Tire Pros Invitational on Thursday at noon. The Musketeers barely edging out Lehigh 84-81.
You can follow Charlie Clarke on Twitter at @CWClarke18.
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