Pressey, Missouri avenge earlier loss to Ole Miss

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Less than 36 hours after returning home from their most difficult loss of the season, the Missouri Tigers had to face an Ole Miss team that had blown them out just four weeks ago. But the Tigers had no problem with the quick turnaround, jumping out to an early lead and ripping Ole Miss 98-79 on Saturday afternoon.
"I'm thrilled," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "So proud of the way we handled ourselves."
The final score represented a 34-point turnaround from the first meeting between the teams, a 64-49 Rebel win in Oxford, Miss. Missouri (17-6, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) tied a season high Saturday by making 12 three-pointers after going 2 for 18 in the previous meeting.
The tone was set early for the Tigers by Phil Pressey. He had a turnover, a blown defensive assignment and a missed game-winning shot in the final 25 seconds against Texas A&M on Thursday night. But on Saturday he scored eight points in Missouri's 16-7 run at the start and finished with a team-high 22 points against Mississippi (18-5, 7-3).
"I just wanted to start the game off with energy," Pressey said. "We are coming down the stretch in the SEC, and we knew we had to get our stuff together."
Pressey got an assist from Alex Oriakhi, who scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
Oriakhi was also at the center of the game's biggest drama. With 7:31 to go, Oriakhi tripped Reginald Buckner, and Buckner and Laurence Bowers exchanged shoves. Oriakhi was called for a flagrant foul, Buckner was ejected and Bowers and Jabari Brown were charged with dead-ball fouls.
"The interpretation that the officials told me: Apparently Oriakhi grabbed his ankle, which was a flagrant 1, and Reg retaliated with a punch," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "I didn't see it, so I can't comment on it, which is a flagrant 2, which means an ejection. Now the supervisor of officials, along with our conference office, will determine what happens next."
While Buckner was out for the rest of this game and might be out longer, Oriakhi sat for barely a minute after the skirmish and came back with seven points, six rebounds and a steal to remove any drama.
"We got tangled up, and it was just emotions," Oriakhi said. "I definitely think I used it in a positive way. I'm happy with the way I responded to it."
Oriakhi's performance on the defensive end was a key for the Tigers as well. Murphy Holloway had 22 points and eight rebounds in the Rebels' win over Missouri in Oxford, but he had just seven points and one board on Saturday.
"I know he's the leading rebounder in the history of our program; he's the leading SEC rebounder," Kennedy said. "For him to get one defensive rebound, for Reginald Buckner to get one defensive rebound, for Marshall Henderson to lead us in defensive rebounding, obviously that doesn't bode well for us."
Overall, Missouri outrebounded the Rebels 50-32.
Missouri led by as many as 21 points in the first half, but Ole Miss closed on a 7-0 run to cut it to 50-34 at the break. The Tigers pushed the lead back up to 21 early in the second half and were never seriously threatened after that.
The Rebels cut it to 15 at 71-56, but the Tigers responded with back-to-back baskets by Pressey and Earnest Ross to push it back to 20.
Keion Bell scored 21 for Missouri, giving the Tigers three 20-point scorers for the first time since their NCAA tournament loss to Norfolk State last season. Henderson and Jarvis Summers led the Rebels with 16 apiece.
NOTES: The win kept Missouri perfect at home -- 13-0 overall and 6-0 in SEC play. ... Pressey broke the school record for assists after getting four Saturday. He has 499 for his career. The old mark was 497 by Anthony Peeler from 1988-92. ... Henderson played 31 minutes but spent time on the bench in each half with what Kennedy believed was a hip injury. ... Ole Miss plays at Texas A&M on Wednesday. Kennedy said he hoped to find out quickly whether Buckner would be available for that game or would be suspended.

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