Brown leads Mizzou to SEC-opening win

2013-01-09T09:45:00Z 2013-01-09T11:24:56Z Brown leads Mizzou to SEC-opening winBy Stu Durando sdurando@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8232 stltoday.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. • Three clunkers delivered by Jabari Brown to begin the Southeastern Conference opener were an extension of his two previous games at Mizzou Arena.

Brown had yet to show the home fans his much-discussed shooting prowess. And Alabama liked the look of his initial attempts to break out of a home-court funk.

When he finally delivered Tuesday night, it came when the 10th-ranked Tigers needed a boost and carried Mizzou to an 84-68 win.

Brown hit five consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 7½ minutes after the Crimson Tide wiped out a 10-point Mizzou lead. He finished with a career-high 22 points in a game that saw only five Tigers score – all in double figures.

Coach Frank Haith continued to shorten the bench with five players going at least 31 minutes and taking all of the team’s 53 shots, but none more effectively than Brown.

“Coach always tells me, ‘Don’t get down on yourself or let one play discourage you,’ ” Brown said. “So having that mind-set, I knew the last game was history. And when a couple of shots went down, it just gave me more confidence.”

The game offered a plethora of strong performances, as Alex Oriakhi had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Phil Pressey 11 points and 13 assists and Earnest Ross 19 points in one of his best shooting games of the season.

The down side was an injury suffered by forward Laurence Bowers with six minutes left. Haith said Bowers was believed to suffer a sprained MCL in his right knee and was going for an MRI. Bowers sat out last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

After Bowers departed, the Tigers (12-2) were finally able to put away Alabama (8-6). They went on a 12-2 run after fending off Crimson Tide threats throughout the game.

“I’m proud we fought back and took the lead briefly,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We knew they’d come out (in the second half) and be extremely aggressive. Missouri did a great job of attacking on their offensive end, and we struggled to get stops.”

Oriakhi and Ross especially made sure of that, as Mizzou shot 59 percent in the second half to make up for being outrebounded for the second successive game.

Oriakhi was more aggressive than usual in the post and scored 11 points in the final 11 minutes. He made six of his eight shots.

“I watched film yesterday after practice and saw I wasn’t posting hard,” he said. “Phil kept telling me, ‘You have to post harder,’ and that was in the back of my mind the whole game. I posted hard, called for the ball and my teammates found me.”

Ross appeared as comfortable as he has in some time. That may have had something to do with playing in the SEC, a league where he competed for Auburn for two seasons before transferring to Mizzou.

He made seven of 12 shots, including three 3-pointers, and grabbed five rebounds in 35 minutes off the bench.

“Earnest was just ready to play,” Haith said. “He and Jabari both played well last game, they just didn’t shoot it. I want guys to define their game in how well they played, not how well they shoot.”

Brown had played especially well in games against Illinois and UCLA – games that were played outside of Columbia. But in his first two games at Mizzou Arena, he shot four for 18 from the field and two for 11 on 3-pointers.

When his first three shots against Alabama didn’t fall, it looked like the start of another long night.

But with Mizzou trailing 28-26, the sophomore made the first of three 3’s in a 75-second span late in the first half. The Tigers led at halftime 40-36. Brown then made two more 3’s in the opening minutes of the second half.

“It feels good, like the basket gets bigger,” he said, “and I feel every shot is going to go in.”

His performance helped counter a 26-point effort by Alabama guard Trevor Releford. The Kansas City native scored a career-high 26 points on eight-of-14 shooting but was slowed in the second half.

Mizzou guard Keion Bell started but played only four minutes. He did not see the court in the second half, but Haith said he was not injured.

“We have a number of guys and we’ve got competition,” Haith said. “You have to produce, and it’s not necessarily about points. You have to produce what we need to win the game. I felt like those other guys gave us a better chance.”

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