COLUMBIA, MO (MUTigers.com) - A balanced scoring attack, buoyed by a prolific second half from the foul line propelled the 17th-ranked Missouri Tigers to a workmanlike 79-62 win over the Georgia Bulldogs Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers (13-3 overall, 2-1 in SEC play) got double-figure scoring from five players, including 15 points off the bench from guard Earnest Ross. Guard Jabari Brown also chipped in with 15 points, while guard Keion Bell (14 points), center Alex Oriakhi (13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks) and forward Tony Criswell (10) joined them in double digits.
After attempting only four free throws (making three) on the way to a 38-30 halftime lead, the Tigers forced the issue more in the second half, and went to the line 21 times after intermission, nailing 15 of them. Frank Haith's Tigers ended the night 18-of-25 from the foul line, and shot a solid 48.1% from the floor.
Ross provided a nice spark off the bench, as Mizzou went with a starting lineup of Phil Pressey, Brown, Criswell, Oriakhi and freshman forward Stefan Jankovic, who made his second career start. The lanky rookie made the move pay off early, as he accounted for MU's first five points on the night, on a pair of free throws and a three pointer which gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead. Mizzou would never trail in the half, and led by as much as 14 before the Bulldogs (6-10, 0-3) scored the last five points of the half to cut the margin to 38-30 at the break.
Both teams had a cold start to the second half, but Mizzou's Brown got things going with a three-pointer at the 17:34 mark to make it 41-30. After a Georgia bucket, Ross nailed a trey of his own, and Brown followed with a pair of free throws to extend the Tiger lead to 46-32 with 15:10 to play. The Bulldogs would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way, but a quick 7-0 run by Mizzou midway through the half stretched the lead back to a comfortable margin, and the Tigers coasted from there.
Pressey distributed the ball Wednesday night to the tune of six assists, while he nabbed four steals and added five points (on 2-of-6 FGs). Jankovic ended with seven points, after getting saddled with three first-half fouls shortly after his game-opening scoring run.
The Tigers played their second straight game without senior captain Laurence Bowers, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. His status going forward is still unknown, and the Tigers head out to Gainesville, Fla. this Saturday for a top-25 matchup with the #10 Florida Gators. Tipoff for the game is set for 1 p.m. (central time).