COLUMBIA, Mo.-- On Saturday evening, Missouri coach Frank Haith described point guard Phil Pressey as "one of those guys who can do a lot of different things on the court to help you win basketball games other than score."
But scoring is exactly the way Pressey helped Missouri stave off a valiant upset bid from Bucknell. The junior point guard scored a career-high 26 points as the 12th-ranked Tigers beat the Bison 66-64.
That was more or less the plan coming into the game for Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen.
"Our goal with him going in was to make him score," Paulsen said. "Not 26, but to not be a distributor."
Bucknell held Pressey, the SEC pre-season player of the year, in check throughout the first half. Pressey had racked up 30 assists in his previous two games, but had none at halftime and just five for the game.
"First half, we were impatient a little bit on both ends of the court," Haith said. "We were executing much better on offense, being real patient and obviously the game is making shots. We were able to make some shots in the second half."
Pressey made 10-of-22 shots from the floor, the third consecutive game in which he has tied or set a career-high for field goal attempts. Fourteen of those shots came after halftime, when Pressey scored 20 of Missouri's 42 points.
"I just have to respect what the defense is giving me," Pressey said. "We ran offense and I know when we run offense, whatever shot presents itself, I have to take as well as my teammates."
Pressey's three-pointer with three minutes to play put Missouri up 60-57, matching its largest lead of the game. It was the 11th and final lead change of the game.
"When we get in crunch time, we definitely want him with the ball," Laurence Bowers said.
Mike Muscala lead the Bison with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but missed a free throw that would have completed a three-point play and tied the game with 40 seconds left. Muscala also stepped on the baseline with 4.1 seconds to play, turning the ball over before Bucknell could attempt a game-winning shot.
"He's a really good player and we knew that coming into the game," Bowers said. "He was, I would say, the reason why they were so competitive and I think he's going to continue to play the way he did. You just got to respect a guy like that. He had a great game.
Earnest Ross hit two free throws with three seconds to play to put Missouri up 66-63. The Tigers fouled Muscala on the inbounds pass. He made the first free throw before missing the second intentionally. Missouri's Stefan Jankovic grabbed the rebound and the clock ran out.
"I think we did a good job defensively, and rebounding especially, because that's their strength," Muscala said. "I think in the second half, we let them get into too much of a comfort zone."
Paulsen added: "It was a solid effort, a good effort. We just needed a little bit more in the second half."
Bucknell held a 28-24 halftime lead paced by 16 points and eight rebounds from Muscala.
But Jankovic, a freshman who played only two first half minutes, got the Tigers going after the break. He hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Phil Pressey on Missouri's first possession and threw down a one-handed dunk the next time down to give the Tigers a 29-28 lead. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way.
Bucknell outrebounded the Tigers 39-38, the first time all season Missouri has been on the short end of the battle on the glass. Laurence Bowers had 16 points and nine boards for Missouri. Cameron Ayers chipped in 13 for the Bison.
NOTES: Forward Tony Criswell missed a second consecutive game for Mizzou with a broken finger. Haith said he would be re-evaluated Sunday. ... Pressey's 26 points came on 22 shots, the third consecutive game he has set or tied a career-high in attempts. ... Missouri entered the game second in the country in rebounding margin at plus-14.2 per game. Saturday marked the first time the Tigers have been outrebounded all season. ... The teams combined to make 2-of-16 3-pointers in the first half, but hit 10 of 13 after the break, including Missouri making all five of its second half attempts. ... Both teams played their final non-conference game Saturday. Missouri begins SEC play Tuesday night, hosting Alabama. Bucknell is off for a week before opening Patriot League competition against Army.