Senior forward Alex Oriakhi recorded his second double-double in as many games and senior guard Keion Bell leapt out of his scoring slump Friday as No. 14 Missouri downed visiting Nicholls State 74-54 at Mizzou Arena.
With the win the Tigers (3-0) head off to Nassau, Bahamas on a positive note later this week with blowout wins in their first three games.
“Give Nicholls State a lot of credit, they were very disciplined on the offensive end,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “It was sort of a long, dragging game, and I thought they brought the fight to us on the offensive end to start the game. Then in the beginning of the second half, we brought the fight to them.”
The Tigers for the third consecutive game failed to put away a mid-major early. The Colonels trailed by only seven points at the half until Missouri opened the second period on a 20-5 run, spearheaded by Oriakhi’s eight points and Bell’s seven through the run.
Oriahki finished with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds. Bell had 13 points and seven boards to go along with 4 steals.
“Keion is a great player, once he gets going, man, it’s hard to stop him,” junior guard Earnest Ross said. Ross finished with 16 points on six of nine shooting. “He is an athletic player. He is going to rebound; he is going to get out there and finish.”
With this breakout performance, Oriakhi seems to have shucked his offensive woes from the season and preseason. Over that four-game span, the Connecticut transfer only averaged 8.5 points per game.
“Honestly, I feel I’m not really much of an offensive player,” he said, “but Coach Haith is doing a great job of emphasizing throwing the ball to me and I feel when they double team me I’m going to be able to make plays as well.”
Missouri won both its exemption games from the Battle for Atlantis tournament in blowout fashion, but will face its first real test against Stanford on Thanksgiving Day. The tourney , in its inaugural season, is widely regarded as the top tournament of its kind, trumping the renowned Maui Invitational.
The tournament includes ranked opponents Louisville (2), Duke (9) and Memphis (17). Stanford, Virginia Commonwealth and Minnesota received votes for slots in the Associated Press top 25 poll. Northern Iowa rounds out the field.
“We all came to Mizzou to play our best, so I think guys are real excited. It will definitely be a true test,” Oriakhi said. “We are going to play guys just as big and just as athletic as us, so I think we are ready. This is what we are going to face at the end of the season.”