Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Every Missouri scholarship player who took the floor Friday night against Missouri Western scored, including four who put up double digits.
Freshman K.J. Walton made all six of his shots from the field, racking up a game-high 17 points. Missouri scored 80 points — to say nothing of 90 — for the first time since March 2014.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Missouri basketball of late if the night didn’t come with an asterisk.
For one, the Tigers’ 92-53 defeat of the Griffons was an exhibition game. Stealing even more of the night’s luster, however, was the pregame announcement sophomores D’Angelo Allen and Namon Wright would be “withheld” for the game for violating team policies.
Allen and Wright’s punishment comes after a season in which seven Missouri players were suspended at one point — including Allen and Wright. The former was suspended last September after being arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault. The latter missed games against Texas A&M and South Carolina due to suspension.
Allen and Wright were on the bench for the game, and will be eligible to play next Friday in the team’s season opener against Wofford. Missouri coach Kim Anderson wouldn’t comment further after the game.
“Looked like some other guys picked up the slack, though,” he said.
Behind Walton was sophomore Tramaine Isabell with 16 points, all in the second half. Junior-college transfer Russell Woods had 13 points, and junior guard Wes Clark had 10.
Walton, one of three freshmen in the starting lineup, got Missouri going early, scoring the Tigers’ first six points on a layup, a free throw and a 3-pointer. The Missouri defense clamped down to help the Tigers jump out to a 17-2 lead. The Griffons went 6:47 without a point during the stretch.
“I was impressed with the way we started the game off defensively,” Anderson said. “One of the big things we’ve talked about in practice has been getting stops. I think maybe it was 15 of their first 16 possessions we kept them from scoring.”
Clark scored all 10 of his points in the first half, aided by four free throws, and newcomers Woods and Walton were a combined 6-of-6 from the floor.
Missouri Western avoided embarrassment, however, going on a 15-7 run at one point in the first half, and getting the game back within single digits twice.
The Griffons actually out-rebounded Missouri in the first half, 22-20. Anderson said he challenged his team to attack the boards more in the second half.
The Tigers responded, pulling in eight more rebounds than Missouri Western in the final 20 minutes.
Woods pulled down four of his five rebounds in the second half.
“I just tried to take the challenge,” he said, “because I know I’m a good rebounder. So whatever coach asks, I just apply that to the game.”
Missouri burst out of halftime with a 10-3 run, forcing Missouri Western to cause a timeout.
The Tigers took turns going on offensive surges in the half, with Cullen VanLeer first to go off. VanLeer scored his first points of the game with a 3-pointer at 14:39, he then hit another 3 and banked a pull-up jumper, all in a 78-second span.
When Isabell hit a 3-pointer at 7:35, he became the final active scholarship player to score a point in the game. He made up for lost time, too, scoring 11 of Missouri’s final 13 points.
No one was quite as hot as Walton, however. He hit three straight 3-pointers in less than two minutes late in the second half. He finished the game 6-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from behind the arc.
“Woo, he’s been shooting the ball,” Woods said. “Him, Cullen and Tramaine, they’ve been shooting the lights out of the ball.”
More than 60 percent of the team’s points were scored by players new to the team. Freshmen Walton, VanLeer, Terrence Phillips and Kevin Puryear and transfers Woods and Martavian Payne combined for 57 points.
“There’s no way I can put it (beside) this was really fun,” said Phillips, who had four steals and six assists. “I think the bonding was kind of a question. We had to ask all summer how that was going to be. I think that it really showed tonight. We really shared the ball well together. We played well together. Defensively, we had each other’s back.
“But this was fun playing with each other, and I can’t wait to do it next Friday.”
Missouri’s tipoff against Wofford is 8 p.m at Mizzou Arena.