Kansas City native, Trevor Releford scored a season and career high 26 points on Tuesday night and did what he could lead Alabama to a victory over Missouri. Unfortunately Travis’ little brother alone couldn’t keep pace with the deeper and more talented Tigers roster.
Alabama scored first on a Rodney Cooper three pointer to go up 3-0 and kept the game close throughout the first half, but held the lead for only four of the game’s first 20 minutes. Missouri led 40-36 at the break and built up their advantage throughout the second half to win by a comfortable 84-68 margin.
It was a convincing victory for Mizzou which is still without junior forward Tony Criswell who has missed the last three games with a broken finger. The Tigers may get Criswell back this weekend, but lost a bigger piece of their rotation puzzle when Laurence Bowers sprained his MCL in the second half of Tuesday’s game. Mizzou fans can breathe a sigh of relief however as Bowers is only expected to miss a couple of games and the sprain is not in the same knee he had surgically repaired last year.
Sophomore Jabari Brown led the Tigers in scored with 22 points on 7-11 shooting and hit five three pointers. His perimeter shooting has clearly been a welcome addition to the starting lineup and he’s proven to be a solid rebounding guard as well. He’s only played in five games thus far but he’s averaged 13.8 ppg and has already knocked down 14 three point attempts. Prior to leaving the game in the second half, Bowers scored 16 points and pulled down five rebounds and Earnest Ross had a season high 19 off the bench. With 16 points and ten rebounds, Alex Oriakhi turned in his fifth double-double of the season. He continues to provide Missouri with an strong presence on the boards and continues to make high percentage shots on the interior. Of course Alex wasn’t the only Tiger with a double-double in the game. He was joined by Phil Pressey who finished with eleven points and 13 assists in 35 minutes on the floor. Pressey wasn’t at his best hitting on just four of his ten shots and he turned the ball over five times. To make matters worse, he is also the one that inadvertently landed on Bowers’ leg causing the above mentioned MCL sprain. The injury aside, even when Pressey isn’t at his personal best, he’s still one of the best guards in the country and is always entertaining to watch on the court.
Beyond Releford’s 26 on 8-14 shooting, Alabama had two other players score in double digits. Devonta Pollard scored ten and Cooper added eleven to go with a team-leading seven rebounds. At the end of the day however it was only Releford’s performance that stood out, though the Crimson Tide didn’t play poorly. They shot a respectable 43.6% from the floor and essentially played Missouri even on the glass. However the Tigers shot 56.6% in the game, were 9-15 from beyond the arc and held the advantage in steals, blocks and turnovers.
Alabama (8-6, 0-1) will play host to Tennessee (8-5, 0-1) on Saturday. Both teams are relatively close in RPI (78th and 90th) and both are in the top 50 in terms of strength of schedule thus far. Like the Crimson Tide, the Volunteers lost their conference opener to a 12-2 team by more than 16 points.
That same 12-2 team that beat Tennessee by 18 last night happens to be Missouri’s next opponent. The #10 Tigers (12-2, 1-0) will head to Oxford, Mississippi on Saturday to take on Ole Miss. As mentioned Mizzou should get Criswell back but will be without Bowers for the game. The Rebels have a strong early season record and are 48th in RPI but their schedule to date has been a bit underwhelming (205th). Aside from their conference opener this week the only team they’ve played from a major conference is Rutgers, a team they beat by 13 at the start of December. Their two losses are by three to Middle Tennessee State and by two in overtime to Indiana State. The Rebels are 4th in the nation in scoring (83.7 ppg) and 14th in rebounding (41.6 rpg) but given their schedule those numbers are not necessarily a true reflection of what they will be in conference. 6’2″ junior guard Marshall Henderson leads the Rebels in scoring with a 19.1 point per game average but it’s 6’7″ senior forward Murphy Holloway – averaging a double-double (15.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg) – that powers the team.