COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—Nothing came easily in the opener for No. 15 Missouri. For the first time since 1951, the Tigers won without a single double-digit scorer.
Laurence Bowers had nine points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots as off-kilter Missouri held off Western Illinois 66-61 on Thursday night. Typical for this game, Bowers flubbed a shot at a double-double, going 1 for 4 at the free throw line.
“You just have those nights,” Bowers said. “I believe if we would have panicked it would have been a different outcome.”
Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon and Steve Moore also had nine points apiece for Missouri (1-0), which won its 48th consecutive non-conference home game despite going only 14 for 27 from the line. The Tigers shot 72 percent last season while going 23-11 and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I just thought the nerves were going really, really good,” coach Mike Anderson said. “You don’t see Bowers miss layups, miss free throws.”
Missouri’s last victory without anyone in double figures was 39-38 against Kansas on Feb. 12, 1951, in Brewer Fieldhouse, and August Heineman was the top scorer with seven points.
Anderson said he couldn’t remember a game he’s coached with no one in double figures.
Afterward, players said they never worried.
“Never, never,” said guard Kim English, held to six points on 3 for 10 shooting. “It’s better to learn lessons in wins than in losses. This was huge. Guys were on the bench saying ‘We’re all right.”’
Matt Lander had 24 points and Kamarr Price added 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for Western Illinois (2-1), which had a 38-37 rebounding edge. The Leathernecks were 8 for 11 from the line.
“I thought we played the way we needed to play,” coach Jim Molinari said. “What you try to do on the road is to put yourself in position to win and we did that. We just couldn’t finish.”
Missouri was the last team in the Top 25 to play its opener and still didn’t look ready, trailing much of the first half and failing on several occasions to put away the Leathernecks down the stretch. The Tigers were only 4 for 8 from the line in the final 43 seconds.
“We’ve kind of been in a holding pattern and it’s time for us to play,” Anderson said. “Our guys, this is the first time actually going up in the lights, camera and action.
“We’ll get better, we’ll get a lot better.”
Bowers was 18 for 19 from the line in a pair of exhibitions.
Moore, who averaged 1.1 points last season, had a career-best offensive game, topping his previous high by a point.
Price’s three-point play tied it at 55 with 5:21 to go and he put Western Illinois ahead 57-55 with a layup on the break with about three minutes left. Missouri answered with five straight points, but the game was still in doubt before Michael Dixon hit two free throws for the final margin with 10.8 seconds to go.
“They played amazing, but at the end of the day we won,” said English. “And that’s all we want to do.”
Moore’s first career 3-pointer near the end of the half gave Missouri a 34-29 lead. He had three previous attempts last season.
“I’m not going to lie,” Moore said. “It felt pretty good.”
Western Illinois grabbed a quick 9-2 lead and was ahead much of the opening half, forcing eight turnovers to offset a 1-for-9 performance from 3-point range.