Bowers and Oriakhi power Mizzou past LSU

Bowers and Oriakhi power Mizzou past LSU

Alex Oriakhi (R) and Phil Pressey walk off the court following Mizzou’s 89-76 win over LSU Saturday afternoon in Columbia. (Photo: Columbia Missourian)

COLUMBIA, Mo. – LSU fought and clawed for almost the entire 40 minutes, but Mizzou managed to hold on for an 89-76 victory Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. The win improved the Tigers to 16-0 at home and moved them into a tie with Mississippi for fourth place in the SEC. With Ole Miss loss, Mizzou will finish in the top four and grab a double-bye in the SEC Tournament if it manages to win its final two games.

“I think that we were very good offensively the entire game,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I thought that Laurence [Bowers] gave us a nice lift in the high post when LSU went zone and made some really nice plays. You have to have guys that can knock down shots, and we did that today. It’s a good win, LSU is a very good team.”

Led by Anthony Hickey, LSU picked apart MU’s defense in the opening frame, dropping eight 3-point bombs, five of which came from Hickey (17 points in first half alone).

“I think we did a good job of coming out and throwing the first punch and letting them know that we were here to win the ball game,” LSU guard Charles Carmouche explained.

Phil Pressey skies towards the basket in the first half of Mizzou’s win over LSU. (Photo: Columbia Missourian)

In danger of being blown out of its own building, the Tigers went to work, relentlessly pounding the ball inside with forwards Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers, to open things up outside for the guards, including Phil Pressey whose 3-pointer late in the first half put Missouri ahead for good.

“Well coach always tells us to play inside out and more time than not whenever we do that it extends the defense and if Alex Oriakhi and myself have it going, then they will key in on us and the guards can (then) get going,” Bowers said. “It was game plan and coach did a great job with the game plan and we benefited from it.”

Bowers led the way for Missouri, chipping in 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the year. It was the fifth 20-point game of the season for the senor forward, who hit 10 of 17 shots from the field en route to his best scoring performance since he finished with 23 points and 10 boards against Illinois on Dec. 23.

“I just got lost in the game,” Bowers explained. “Coach sent me a text this morning that said just play free and that’s what I did and it really helped me and I just have to continue to keep that approach throughout the rest of the season.”

“Every time he had it in the post, I just told him to go to work. I knew the guy that was on him, couldn’t really guard him, so I just told him, go to work and he was able to do that,” Alex Oriakhi said, before quickly adding, “I mean, that’s what I think. That was a good player. Not a lot of people could guard [Bowers]. I’m not taking any shots at LSU.”

Alex Oriakhi (Photo: Columbia Missourian)

Oriakhi, the player Haith later described as the “Jolly Green Giant,” tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots to become the first Tiger to register at least 10 double-doubles in a season since Linas Kleiza did it in 2004-05. He is now just one shy of tying Jevon Crudup for 10th on the school’s single-season double-doubles list.

With today’s performance, Oriakhi overtook ninth place on Mizzou’s all-time single-season blocked shot list with 47 and moved within four rebounds of joining Arthur Johnson (1,093) and Doug Smith (1,053) as the only Missouri Tigers to have grabbed 1,000 career rebounds.

It was also a historic afternoon for junior Phil Pressey who scored 15 points and dished out eight assists to clear the 200-assist plateau for the second consecutive season. The star point guard hit five of 11 shots from the field and turned the ball over just twice. He also accounted for two of the team’s three steals.

Earnest Ross (13) and Keion Bell (11) also finished in double-figures for Mizzou who threw around its size, out-scoring LSU 52-24 in the paint and picking up 24 second chance points. As a team, the Tigers shot 58 percent from the field, but were just 5 for 16 from long range.

Photo: Columbia Missourian

“I think their size and strength is good enough when you’ve got guys like Oriakhi to push you off the block and make it extremely tough for you to get angles,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “At times they tried to double us down and I think we made the right reads when we kicked it out and made shots on the perimeter instead of hitting our guys cutting to the basket.”

Missouri led by 16 following an old-fashioned 3-point play from Bowers midway through the second half, but LSU refused to simply fade away, registering triples on its next three possessions as part of a 12-4 run that slashed the score to 80-72 with 3:03 remaining.

That would be as close as the visiting Tigers would get, however, as the home squad stabilized, ending the game on a 9-2 run to seal the victory. That scoring spurt was highlighted by an emphatic two-handed, fast break slam from Bell with 1:13 remaining and saw Mizzou hit 5 of 6 free throws.

Keion Bell caps off Mizzou’s victory with a two-handed slam late in the second half. (Photo: Columbia Missourian)

“This is where we’ve been hoping to get to with Laurence getting back in the lineup,” Haith explained. “To have him getting back in to rhythm after being out and now playing well with Alex who we really established when Laurence went out is big for us. Now we have both of these guys playing at a high level.”

Three players finished in double-figures for LSU, including Hickey, who wound up with 22 points. He was joined by Charles Carmouche (21) and Johnny O’Bryant III (18). As a team, the Tigers shot 41 percent from the field and were 12 for 28 from long range, despite going just 4 for 13 in the second half.

“You have to give LSU credit, they made some shots, but they were open,” Haith said. “We just didn’t guard the 3-point as well as we could have, consistently.”

Mizzou will play its final home game of the season Tuesday night against Arkansas. The Razorbacks, led by former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, won the year’s first meeting 73-71 in Fayetteville on Feb. 16.

Tip-off for Tuesday night’s rematch is set for 6 p.m.