Nicholls-Missouri Preview

The Associated Press

Before Laurence Bowers and his teammates head off to the Bahamas, the senior forward is hoping to see a more complete effort from Missouri.

Bowers and the 14th-ranked Tigers will try to deliver that performance during Friday night's matchup with visiting Nicholls State.

While it hasn't made too much of a difference in the final score, Missouri (2-0) hasn't gotten off to an ideal start in each of its first two games. The Tigers trailed Southern Illinois-Edwardsville for much of the first half in Saturday's season opener before pulling away for an 83-69 win and never led by more than seven in the opening 20 minutes of Tuesday's 91-54 rout of Alcorn State.

"It was a sense of us being lethargic," Bowers said. "Coach got under us, and we came out in the second half playing with a fire under us. And we ended up playing great. That halftime speech was a spark.

"Next game, I said in the huddle, we need to put two halves together and I think that's what we're going to do. We're going to come out with a better focus."

Missouri has only one returning starter from its 30-win team but its lineup isn't entirely green. Three current starters are transfers, and Bowers is back from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season.

The team's top reserve from 2011-12, Michael Dixon, remains suspended indefinitely due to an unspecified violation of team rules and the Tigers are also waiting for Jabari Brown, a transfer from Oregon, to become eligible in December.

That means the team's chemistry will likely need to continue developing, and Missouri will try to work on that during Friday's game and the three-day Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Caribbean, which opens with a Thanksgiving Day matchup against Stanford.

"This team is a work in progress," coach Frank Haith said. "We're not going to be where we're going to be in January. We're not going to be where we're going to be in February."

For now, Haith's team will try to stay unbeaten after facing the Colonels (0-1), who lost to another SEC team in their season opener

Nicholls State held a four-point lead with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half Saturday at Vanderbilt before falling 80-65. Three days later it defeated Mobile 73-53 in an exhibition game.

Fred Hunter, who sat out last season while recovering from a knee injury, had 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Commodores and scored 19 in the exhibition. The senior guard was selected to the Southland Conference's preseason all-league team in October.

Missouri, which prevailed 66-57 in the only other matchup between the schools on Dec. 1, 1998, in Columbia, is seeking its 68th consecutive home win over a non-conference opponent.

The Colonels, meanwhile, are 3-17 on the road against non-conference foes since 2009-10, and lost to No. 5 North Carolina 99-49 in their only game against a ranked opponent last season.

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