Frank Haith

Laurence Bowers’ double-double helps push No. 13 Missouri past Stanford, 78-70

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The return of Laurence Bowers to the basketball court was highly anticipated among Missouri fans, especially when considering the fact that they Tigers had just one true interior player on last season’s Big 12 tournament champion squad.

That group fell to Norfolk State in the NCAA tournament, and it’s difficult to think that Bowers wouldn’t have had an impact alongside Ricardo Ratliffe in 2011-12.

Bowers is making up for lost time in his fifth season with averages of 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and the Memphis native scored 19 points and grabbed ten rebounds in Missouri’s 78-70 win over Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Bowers scored 13 of his 19 in the second half and point guard Phil Pressey added 18 and eight assists, and four players reached double figures to help Missouri survive shooting 36.6% from the field.

Missouri was even worse from beyond the arc, where they made just four of their nineteen attempts, and Earnest Ross shot a frigid 3-of-19 from the field. It was obvious that the Tigers miss their two best shooters in Michael Dixon Jr. and Jabari Brown.

While Brown, who transferred in from Oregon, won’t be eligible until the end of the semester the suspended Dixon Jr. did make the trip to the Bahamas and there’s the thought that he may be able to play this weekend.

But even with the issues shooting the basketball the fact that Missouri grabbed 16 offensive rebounds (Ross grabbed seven) and won the battle on the boards is an encouraging sign.

Stanford’s Chasson Randle led all scorers with 22 points and Dwight Powell added 18 and ten rebounds, but the Cardinal’s perimeter shooting (6-of-26 3PT) did them no favors against the Tigers.

Missouri next plays the winner of No. 2 Louisville and Northern Iowa, and if the Cardinals win that would set up an interesting match-up between Missouri assistant Tim Fuller and his former boss (also, freshman Negus Webster-Chan was originally a Louisville commit).

While it is too early to make a definitive judgment on Missouri given the fact that they aren’t whole, there’s no denying what the return of Bowers means inside. Welcoming him back and adding newcomers Alex Oriakhi and Ryan Rossburg gives Frank Haith something he was in desperate need of last season: interior depth.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.