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Missouri routs Alabama, but loses Bowers to knee injury

The SportsXchange

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri's conference opener provided a reprieve after three down-to-the-wire games to close the non-conference season. But the victory came with new source of stress.

Jabari Brown scored 22 points and Earnest Ross had 19 points to help the Tigers rebound in the second half for an 84-68 victory over Alabama on Tuesday night.

But Missouri forward Laurence Bowers, the team's leading scorer, injured his right knee with about five minutes remaining. Coach Frank Haith said Bowers will undergo an MRI on Wednesday, believing the injury to be an MCL sprain.

Bowers missed all of last season after tearing ligaments in his left knee.

Missouri (12-2, 1-0 SEC) also got 16 points apiece from Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. Ross added his 19 off the bench and outscored Alabama's bench, which only scored five points.

"I felt like we had a workmanlike attitude, in terms of how we played there in the second half," Haith said. "A key for us in this ballgame was not turning the ball over. We did a great job of that. I thought we really executed, particularly down the stretch, well offensively, and we made enough defensive stops."

Alabama (8-6, 0-1), still dealing with the loss of center Carl Engstrom for the season, saw its lone true center Moussa Gueye foul out with 5:56 remaining in regulation. From there, Missouri outscored Alabama 19-9 to close the game.

Five Missouri players scored in double figures, and those five players accounted for all of the Tigers' points. Phil Pressey overcame a sloppy start to finish with 11 points, 13 assists and five turnovers. Missouri shot 56.6-percent as a team.

Meanwhile, Alabama struggled to make baskets in the second half and finished by shooting 43.6-percent. Releford, scored 19 first-half points, but he didn't score in the second half until a made free-throw with 9:19 remaining in the game. He led all scorers with 26 points.

"I think they just played great disciplined defense," Releford said. "They help each other. They talk, they communicated well and I wasn't able to hit a couple shots that I hit in the first half."

As Releford cooled off, Missouri's Brown found a rhythm. He hit five 3-point field goals in a row, spanning the end of the first half and into the second, to set a new career-high in points in his fifth game at Missouri. After transferring from Oregon, Brown became eligible against South Carolina State on Dec. 17. Over his previous two games, Brown made 4 of 14 3-point attempts.

"Coach always tells me, 'Don't get down yourself, don't let one play discourage you'," Brown said. "So I just had that mindset. I knew that game was history. I just had to prepare the same way going into the next game, and when I saw a couple of shots go down, it just gave me some more confidence.

"It feels like the basket gets bigger out there, and I feel like every shot's going to go in."

Alabama coach Anthony Grant likes to employ an up-tempo, four-guard offense, but the Tide used a bigger lineup against the Tigers. Freshman Devonta Pollard and Nick Jacobs were inserted to combat Missouri's frontcourt duo of Oriakhi and Bowers.

Less than five minutes into the game, Grant went back to his four-guard lineup, after Missouri went on a 10-0 run for a 15-5 lead.

At that point, the Tigers had outrebounded Alabama 5-0, and a quick start from Bowers helped produce the early advantage. Bowers made his first three shots of the game to score seven of the Tigers' first 17 points.

However, Alabama answered behind Releford. The Crimson Tide went on a 12-0 run to take the lead, extending it to three points before Ross connected on a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the score at 23-23 with 6:53 remaining in the half.

In the final 13 minutes of the first half, Releford scored 17 points. He finished with 19 first-half points.

Missouri finished the half strong, though, as Alabama dealt with foul trouble, and never trailed again. The Tigers outscored Alabama 14-10 over the final 4:40 to take a 40-36 lead into halftime. Ross and Bowers combined for 22 of Missouri's points.

NOTES: Releford's 26 points allowed him to pass 1,000 for his career. ... After making 2 of 8 eight first-half 3-point attempts against Bucknell on Saturday, Missouri connected on 9 of 15 attempts against Alabama ... Heralded transfer Brown rebounded from a 1-for-9 shooting performance against Bucknell. He made 7 of 11 field-goal attempts.
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