Columbia, MO (Sports Network) - The 14th-ranked Missouri Tigers finish off their season-opening, three-game homestand on Friday night, as they play host to the Nicholls State Colonels in non-conference action.
Nicholls State had a tough draw in its opener, having to travel to Nashville to take on a strong Vanderbilt squad, but it was able to hold its own in the first half as it went into intermission down just six. Vandy's three-point shooting heated up after halftime however, and the Colonels fell in an 80-65 final. Despite the setback, the effort was a good sign for a squad that went just 10-20 a season ago.
Missouri had one of the nation's top offenses in 2011-12, and even though it experienced a ton of turnover in the off-season, it has barely skipped a beat in the early going this new campaign. The Tigers have logged convincing wins over SIU-Edwardsville (83-69) and Alcorn State (91-54), making it the seventh straight season they have started 2-0. Mizzou also has another impressive streak on the line, as it has won 67 straight games over non-conference foes at home.
These teams have met just once before, with Missouri winning at home, 66-57, on Dec. 1, 1998.
After shooting just 31 percent from the floor in the first half of its opener, Nicholls State heated up after the break and finished the game by draining 25- of-58 shots from the field (.431), but as its offense began to click its defense fell apart, as Vanderbilt made two-thirds of its field goal attempts after halftime to pull away. More than a year removed from a devastating ACL injury, Fred Hunter returned to the court in style with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds. Sam McBeath was less impressive (5- of-16), although he did nail four three-pointers and finished with 15 points. Freshman T.J. Carpenter had an impressive debut for the Colonels, scoring 11 points. The bench effort for Nicholls State was virtually non-existent, as six players combined for just 11 points.
Surprisingly enough, Missouri shot a poor 23.1 percent from the field in the first half of its 91-point effort against Alcorn State, but made up for it in the second half by connecting on 17-of-29 shots and it finished the game by making 31 free throws on an incredible 44 attempts. As expected, Phil Pressey was the leading scorer with 21 points. Pressey was mostly a supporting player on a loaded squad last year, but with Marcus Denmon and Kim English gone, the junior has acted as the go-to guy with 20.0 ppg in the early going. Earnest Ross tallied 17 points and 10 boards on Tuesday, and Alex Oriakhi also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Laurence Bowers added 14 points while hitting three of the team's eight three-pointers on the night.