Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — Missouri’s first game of the season was highlighted by hot shooting and a stretch in which the Tigers made 16-of-22 shots against a team coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.
In their second game of the season, the Tigers missed 16-of-22 shots at one point, were out-rebounded and struggled to pull away from a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe.
One pretty. One ugly. Two wins.
The Tigers are 2-0 on the young season after a 73-55 defeat of Maryland Eastern Shore on Sunday, their second win in three days.
The Hawks were within a point with 12:46 to go, but the Tigers went on an 11-0 run and held UMES to four field goals the rest of the game. Before that point, Missouri had never led by more than six.
“We weren’t really frustrated,” freshman K.J. Walton said. “We knew that we were obviously going to get the lead going, but we just knew that we had to start attacking more and the lead would get bigger.”
Walton was one of four Tigers with 11 or more points, finishing with 11. All of those came in the second half and he contributed six to the 11-0 run.
“We were a little bit stagnant, I thought, passing the ball around the perimeter,” coach Kim Anderson said. “And he came in, just put his head down and drove.”
Thirteen of the Tigers’ 27 shots from the field in the first half came from 3-point land, and they sunk just four of them.
“I mean, you were going to get 3-point shots,” Anderson said. “They were going to give them to you. And I want to shoot them, but you know what? When you don’t make them, then you need to go to Plan B, and I thought we did that in the second half.”
Coming off a game in which he failed to score from the field, junior Wes Clark finished with a team-high 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.
“It was challenging for me,” Clark said of his game against Wofford. “But at the same time I wasn’t pressing. We got the win (Friday), we played hard, and that’s all I was really asking for. The shots are going to come, I know, throughout the season.”
Freshman point guard Terrence Phillips also had success from deep, making 3-of-4 attempts from 3-point range, much to the surprise of Hawks coach Bobby Collins.
“He hit some big shots for them, and it seemed like he was on the end of every big run that they had, every time they penetrated and kicked,” Collins said. “I think he did a really good job of knocking down those shots, shots that we weren’t counting on.”
Phillips has a reputation of more of a facilitator, but his teammates are fine with him pulling the trigger himself, too. He finished with 13 points.
“He’s a good shooter, but I think he’s just such a good leader that he doesn’t really look for his shots much,” Walton said. “He looks to get other guys open first, but he’s a really capable shooter.”
The fourth Tiger in double digits was Kevin Puryear, who scored 13, two days after leading the team with 20 points in his debut.
“He’s playing older than a freshman,” Anderson said.
Clark has also been impressed with Puryear.
“He’s got a very good touch,” Clark said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a player with as good of a touch as K.P. … It’s good to have somebody around the basket and that can pop out and knock down jump shots like that.”
Sophomore D’Angelo Allen logged 15 minutes in the second half after not playing Friday. He had four rebounds and a steal.
Every Tiger who played against Wofford scored, and all but two who stepped on the floor Sunday recorded a point.
“We’ve got 11 guys that have shown they can contribute,” Anderson said, “and so we have to figure out the best way to use them.”
Missouri plays at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Xavier.