Heading into Thursday’s game, the #13 Missouri Tigers were 3-0 but it was a very hollow record given the level of competition they had faced. The Stanford Cardinal presumably presented a step up in degree of difficulty – they are at least a “bigger” name – but the end result was the same. At the completion of the first game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Missouri walked off the court with a 78-70 win.
Senior forward Laurence Bowers paced the Tigers with 19 points on 9-15 shooting and pulled down an even ten rebounds to give him his first double-double of the season. He also chipped in two assists, two blocks and a steal in the game. Joining Bowers in the double-double club on the night was junior guard Earnest Ross who finished with ten points and eleven rebounds. Ross struggled mightily from the field, however. He missed all five of his three point attempts and needed 19 shots – which was a game high for either team – and a 4-5 day at the line to get to double digits. Alex Oriakhi added 13 points and Keion Bell contributed eight, but it was junior guard Phil Pressey who turned in the best stat line of all the Tigers. He wound up with 18 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals and just three turnovers in 35 minutes of action.
Sophomore guard Chasson Randle and junior forward Dwight Powell combined to score 40 points for the Cardinal. Junior forward John Gage was the only other player for Stanford to crack double digits in points with ten. Powell also led the team in rebounds with ten giving him his second double-double of the season.
The game was defined by two things that went hand in hand – physical play and poor shooting. Stanford was 21-56 (37.5%) from the floor while the Tigers were 26-71 (36.6%). The two teams also combined on a dreadful 10-45 effort (22.2%) from beyond the three point line. It was anything but a shooting clinic out on the floor but from the free throw line both teams were exceptional. Missouri missed just 3 of their 25 attempts on the night (88.0%) and Stanford nearly matched them missing just 4 of their 26 attempts (84.6%).
While a win is a win, the Tigers bench was unimpressive. They collectively scored 10 points on 4-15 shooting and offered little contribution beyond giving the starting five a breather. It’s still early so there’s no time to panic but it is a potential concern that the Tigers supporting cast wilted on a bigger stage against a tougher opponent yesterday. It’s not a red flag yet, but it bears watching as the season unfolds.
The number of free throw attempts gives a clear indication of how physical the game was and it’s games like this where Missouri needs Laurence Bowers to come up big. He did just that on Thursday and continued his early season trend of doing most of his damage in the second half. While it’s fantastic that he’s been consistent in powering Missouri down the stretch in their games, it would be even better if he could balance out his production between the halves and fit into the flow of the games early on.
Fresh off their win, the Tigers advance to play the #2 ranked Louisville Cardinals (4-0) at 8:30 pm CT tonight. Yesterday Louisville shot poorly and struggled to get past Northern Iowa 51-46. The Cardinals are a quality team with a great deal of talent, but they’re very beatable at this point in the season.
Standford (3-2) will tussle with Northern Iowa (3-1) at 2:30 CT. As a Creighton alum I will naturally be pulling for my MVC brethren to pull out a victory.