Saturday’s matchup against the Appalachian State Mountaineers was the first game in the post-Michael Dixon era for the Missouri Tigers. While they’ve been playing without the formerly suspended – and now departed – senior guard all season, he was still around the team. The uncertainty of his status hung over the program until this week and Appalachian State provided the Tigers a good opportunity to recalibrate as they move forward.
As a Top-25 team should do against an inferior opponent from a smaller conference, the Tigers jumped out early with a 7-0 run to start the game. They pushed their advantage to an 18-point lead by halftime and led by as many as 24. In the second half, Missouri held serve though the Mountaineers did shave two points off the final deficit outscoring the Tigers 35-33. The 72-56 final reflects the reality of the game. It was a relatively easy victory for the home team over an opponent that has lost six straight after beating the NAIA’s Montreat College Cavaliers.
Missouri was led by Laurence Bowers‘ 23 points on 9-11 shooting in 26 minutes. All but one of his shots came in the first half which is a significant switch since he’s done most of his damage in the second half of games thus far. He may have flipped the script but he continues to be inconsistent from half to half and continues to disappear for stretches in games. Earnest Ross (13), Keion Bell (12) and Tony Criswell (10) also scored in double figures for Mizzou. Phil Pressey only had five points in the game but filled the stat sheet in other ways with seven assists, four rebounds, four steals and a block. Ross led the team in rebounds with nine but he had plenty of help as seven other Tigers had at least three in the game. As you would expect from the number five rebounding team in the nation, Missouri was plus 15 on the boards in the game (41-26).
As a team they shot 29-59 (49.2%) but again struggled from the perimeter making just six of 19 attempts. Oregon transfer Jabari Brown is expected to provide some much needed firepower from beyond the arc but he is still two weeks away from making his Missouri debut. While he won’t play in his first game until December 17th against South Carolina, he has been practicing with the first unit and should be able to have an immediate impact.
Sophomore Jay Canty, a transfer from Xavier, led the Mountaineers in scoring with 29 points on 11-19 shooting. It was the fourth time this season he’s gone over 20. No other member of Appalachian State managed to score in double digits. Playing in 38 minutes, Canty also pulled down six rebounds tying him with Jamaal Trice and Michael Obacha. The Mountaineers shot 35.6% (21-59) from the floor, a product of the Tigers defense and simply missing open shots.
One final note on Dixon: Frank Haith has provided clarification that Dixon’s suspension was initially related to academics, as he stated, but then shifted. For more on this aspect of the Michael Dixon story, I encourage all to read this article, published Friday, by the Kansas City Star.
#16 Missouri (7-1) will host schools from the Ohio Valley Conference in the next week. First up will be the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (6-4) on Tuesday followed by the Tennessee State Tigers (3-5) next Saturday. They won’t play on the road again until December 28th when they will head west to face the UCLA Bruins.
The Mountaineers (1-6) will play their first conference game next Saturday when they tangle with the Western Carolina Catamounts (3-5). It will be the second of four straight road games for Appalachian State with UMKC and South Carolina on their upcoming schedule as well.