There were 51 college basketball games on the slate Saturday, but just two involved Top-25 teams. In one, #22 Notre Dame pushed past the Evansville Aces 58-49. The other match-up? Well that’s the one we really care about in this neck of the woods as it involved the 15th ranked Missouri Tigers.
Their opponent, the SIU Edwardsville Cougars (10-17 last season), put up a battle and trailed by just six points at halftime. In the end however the Tigers were just too much for their Ohio Valley opponent to handle. MU came out on top by a score of 83-69.
Of course the victory was almost secondary on Saturday night as the big story was the return of senior forward Laurence Bowers who missed the entire 2011-2012 season due to a knee injury. If the early returns are any indication Bowers is back and primed to re-stake his claim as the Tigers leader and best player on the floor. He scored 20 points on 9-14 shooting and added 7 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
Joining Bowers down low was senior transfer Alex Oriakhi who scored 8 points in 31 minutes but really made his presence felt on the glass with 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. Junior guard Phil Pressey led the team in minutes played (35) while scoring 19. He racked up 9 assists while only turning the ball over twice.
The Cougars were led by senior forward, and St Louis native, Jerome Jones who was 5-8 from three point land and finished with 17 points. He was the team’s 2nd leading scorer last season averaging 12.7 PPG. Noticeably absent from the points column in the game was senior forward Mark Yelovich who led the team in scoring last season at a 15.7 points per game clip. Against the Tigers on Saturday however he was 0-5 from the field and played just 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
The Tigers shot 47.1% (32-68) from the floor and held the Cougars to 33.3% (23-69). SIU-Edwardsville was able to hang around thanks to their 11-26 performance from beyond the arc, but it wasn’t nearly enough to match Missouri who also shot well from three (7-16).
SIU-Edwardsville will host the Western Illinois Leathernecks on Wednesday night. Given that the Leathernecks are a Summit League team, the game holds some local interest as the UMKC Roos will play them on December 1st and February 28th.
The Tigers will host the Alcorn State Braves tomorrow night (7 pm CT tip) and the Nicholls State Colonels on Friday night before playing Stanford at a neutral site on the 22nd.