Jabari Brown made his long awaited debut for the #12 Tigers tonight. That in itself is a noteworthy headline for Missouri’s win against the MEAC’s South Carolina State Bulldogs. Noteworthy, but trumped by the fact that Mizzou broke the century mark and doubled up their opponent with their 102-51 victory. But wait, there’s more as Bowers, Brown and the rest of the MU crew played a complete game with strong efforts in both halves. That last one may not seem like much for most teams but, regardless of the quality of opponent, the Tigers have struggled to pull that feat off thus far in the 2012-2013 season.
A Phil Pressey jump shot 15 seconds in gave the Tigers the lead and they held it the rest of the game. Their 49 points in the first half marked a season high as was their 102 points overall. They struggled with perimeter shooting yet again going just 6-27 from three but still shot 56.9% from the floor and were in control for the duration of the game. As you would expect given the lopsided score, Frank Haith had lots of playing time to spread out to the guys further down on the bench and ten Tigers saw between 14 and 25 minutes of floor time.
Earnest Ross led all scorers with 16 points on 6-10 shooting in just 16 minutes of action. He also chipped in with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Keion Bell scored twelve while Laurence Bowers and Stefan Jankovic each had eleven. Pressey finished the game with six points in 20 minutes but, as is his style, was active in other areas of the game with six assists, three rebounds and two steals. Alex Oriakhi led the Tigers in rebounding with eleven and fell just a point shy of his fourth double-double of the season. As for Jabari’s MU debut, he was just 1-7 from three but made his other two shots and five of six free throws to finish with twelve points in 20 minutes on the floor. While he’s reportedly been impressive in practices it stands to reason that it will take him a while to work into the flow of the actual games.
The Bulldogs were clearly outgunned and outclassed in terms of talent. They fell behind early and shot just 29.0% for the game including a 6-23 effort from beyond the arc eliminating any hope they had of keeping pace. Khalif Toombs, the team’s leading scorer at over 14 points per game, managed only eight on 3-16 shooting but did pitch in with eight assists, five rebounds and a steal on the night. 6’11″ junior Matthew Hezekiah led South Carolina State in scoring with twelve points on 5-14 shooting. He also pulled down twelve rebounds with ten of them coming off the offensive glass. Freshman Shaquille Mitchell was the only Bulldog, aside from Hezekiah, to score in double figures and did so efficiently with ten points on 4-8 shooting.
South Carolina State (4-7) will play their fourth of eight straight road games on Wednesday when they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (9-2). They will follow that up with games against Clemson and South Carolina on December 23rd and January 5th respectively.
#12 Missouri (9-1) will now prepare for their showdown with #10 Illinois (12-0) on Saturday in St. Louis. The Fighting Illini already have wins over USC, Butler and Gonzaga on their resume but Mizzou figures to have a significant advantage on the glass and in terms of both size and bulk in general. The top three scorers for Illinois are all guards and are 6’4″ or shorter. Senior guard Brandon Paul leads the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounding (5.1 rpg), assists (3.5 apg) and is tied for the lead in steals (1.5 spg). D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams are each averaging 11.5 ppg on the season.