The #7 Missouri Tigers are plenty happy that Laurence Bowers is back on the court after missing the entire 2011-2012 season. There’s no question that he’s helped his team make the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC and that move allowed our local schools to go three for three in college basketball awards for the week. On Monday, Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder and Kansas’ Ben McLemore were honored as the Big 12′s Player and Rookie of the Week respectively. On that same day Bowers brought home the SEC Player of the Week honors.
With eleven points and and two rebounds against South Carolina State on the 17th Bowers didn’t stand out from the conference pack. That said, the Tigers won that game more than comfortably (102-51) and it’s hard to fault him for the lack of attention grabbing stats since he was only on the court for 20 minutes and attempted just six shots in the game.
Saturday’s showdown, with then #10 Illinois, saw Bowers at his finest. He scored 23 on 10-20 shooting and augmented his impact with ten rebounds and four assists. The rebounds gave him his fourth double-double of the season while the assist total set a new high water mark for the year.
Despite missing an entire season he’s shown very little rust thus far. He’s leading the Tigers in scoring with 16.9 points per game and his 6.7 rebounds per game is second on the team behind only Alex Oriakhi. Both averages are career highs for Bowers. He’s also shooting at a career best clip of 57.4% and has added a perimeter shot to his arsenal. In his first three seasons with Mizzou he was 10-38 from beyond the arc. This season he’s already made 13 of his 23 attempts and judging by his stroke, it’s not an accident.
In terms of conference rankings, Bowers is tied for fourth in scoring with Auburn’s Frankie Sullivan. Both aren’t far off from Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who’s averaging 18.1 ppg thus far. He’s also eighth in the SEC in field goal percentage and fourteenth in rebounding.
Last season I felt cheated. Missouri had a fantastic year but it could have been even more special if Bowers hadn’t injured his knee. Thanks to his performance so far, I no longer feel that way. This year’s Tigers team plays a very different style than their predecessor and it’s a style that suits Laurence Bowers. A deep run in the NCAA tournament appears to be on the horizon but first they need to deal with 9-3 UCLA on Friday.