Tony Criswell (3) and Laurence Bowers (21) smile after a scoring play in the second half Tuesday against SEMO. Bowers led all scorers with 26 points, Criswell finished with 13.
By Eric Short
The Missouri basketball team has had some ugly first halves this season.
There was the half against Alcorn State where they shot 9 for 39. There was also the sluggish half that ended with the Tigers leading only by seven against Nicholls State.
But Tuesday night against Southeast Missouri State was a whole different breed of ugly.
Everything went wrong. The Tigers couldn’t cool the Red Hawks hot 3-point shooting, nor could they get to the foul line. They found themselves down 45-35 at halftime to a team that has never beaten a ranked Division 1 opponent.
Then, Laurence Bowers decided that he had had enough. The senior had 15 second half points to finish with a career high 26 and propel the Tigers to a 81-65 victory.
“We didn’t come out and execute the game plan (in the first half),” Bowers said.
“We did a great job of getting me the ball in the second half, I was trying to be fearless, everything was just falling for me.”
While Bowers’ scoring barrage helped Missouri secure the win, the Tigers’ strong perimeter defense ultimately won them the game.
SEMO started off the first half sniping from beyond the arc, shooting eight of 15 from the 3-point zone. However, in the second half, the Tigers limited the Red Hawks 3-point shots and forced them into a one of 11 shooting performance.
“We closed out a lot better in the second half, we made them drive into the paint,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “They are a great shooting team, and if you give them shots they will make them.”
Senior Keion Bell also played a major supporting in the Tigers’ comeback efforts. He recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Bell, a high volume scorer two years ago at Pepperdine, has become a defensive lynchpin for the Tigers, a role he is happy to embrace.
“I’m just trying to be a pest on the ball,” Bell said. “I know that I have the potential to be a key defender.”
Haith also cited an adjustment in junior guard Phil Pressey’s mentality to the Tigers’ comeback.
In the first 20 minutes, Pressey shot three of 14 from the field and missed his only two free throws. Haith said that Pressey seemed more poised in the second half.
“Phil’s got to get better at executing,” Haith said. “He has the ability to take, and make, a lot of shots, but that’s not his game right now. Look at how many shots he took in the second half and it shows.”
Pressey took one shot in the second half, made eight free throws and finished the game with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Senior Corey Wilford led the Red Hawks with 14 points while former Missouri player, junior Tyler Stone, had 13.
Missouri will play Tennessee State at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8 at Mizzou Arena.