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Ross changes stripes, leads Mizzou past Auburn

The SportsXchange

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Earnest Ross played two years for the Auburn Tigers. On Saturday, he was a major player in beating Auburn.

Ross, who transferred from Auburn to Missouri before last season, scored 23 points on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range in a 91-77 Southeastern Conference victory by the Mizzou on Saturday.

"It was kind of a personal thing when I stepped on to the court," Ross said. "I know most of those guys so, you know, it's more of like a friendly rival, I would say."

Added teammate Keion Bell: "I'm pretty sure he was really self-motivated. Playing at a previous school, you're always going to be motivated, and I believe he was pretty motivated for this game."

Ross got plenty of help from Bell, a fellow transfer, who had a game-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor. Both players set career highs at Missouri (16-5, 5-3 in the SEC).

Bell missed Wednesday's loss at LSU because of a shoulder injury, but showed no ill effects on Saturday.

"I didn't know he was going to play till the game started," Missouri coach Frank Haith said.

Auburn (8-13, 2-6) hung around for much of the first half, trailing only 34-30 with 3:54 to play before the break. But Bell scored seven points during an 11-5 finish to the half as the Mizzou took a 45-35 lead the break.

"I was just trying to attack, get to the rim when the opportunity presents itself," Bell said. "I felt coming off of screens that I got a step on some of the defenders, and I just tried to get to the rim and finish."

Auburn briefly got to within eight early in the second half, but a 3-pointer by Phil Pressey started an 11-0 Missouri run that put the game away.

Pressey, who took 22 shots in a 73-70 loss at LSU on Wednesday, tried only two shots from the floor against Auburn. He scored only four points, but dished out 10 assists.

"I think Phil did an outstanding job tonight," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "He was a point guard tonight. Phil's one of the best point guards in the country if not the best. He's a great leader. Today he was on his game."

Pressey is the only Tiger who played for last year's team. Missouri had five players in double figures and four of them were transfers. The quartet combined for 69 of Mizzou's 91 points.

But this one meant just a little bit more to Ross.

"Satisfying personal wise, but very, very excited for a team win," Ross said. "That's what we need because in order for the team to win, we all have to play well. Tonight, I think we did that."

Laurence Bowers scored 12 points for Missouri in his second game back after missing five because of an MCL sprain.

Frankie Sullivan led Auburn with 12 points. Rob Chubb scored 10, but was limited to 19 minutes by foul trouble.

NOTES: Missouri had all of its players available for only the third time this season, and the first since Dec. 22 against Illinois. ... Alex Oriakhi scored 11 points, pushing him over the 1,000-point mark for his career. ... Missouri is 5-0 at home in the SEC, but 0-3 in league road games. ... The teams were called for a total of 49 fouls and shot 69 free throws.
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