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January 27, 2013

SEC MEN'S BB: No. 22 Mizzou blows out Vanderbilt, 81-59

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri coach Frank Haith said injured senior Laurence Bowers could have played Saturday if the 22nd-ranked Tigers needed him.

They didn't.

Jabari Brown scored 21 points, Alex Oriakhi tied a career high with 18 and Missouri cruised to an 81-59 victory over Vanderbilt.

Missouri (15-4, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) led 49-20 at halftime thanks to an early 32-2 run spanning 11:47. After going 11 of 51 on 3-point attempts their past two games, the Tigers hit 11 of 21 Saturday - including eight in the first half for a rare fast start.

Brown has scored in double figures in nine of his 10 games with the Tigers, and he leads the team in conference play with 17.3 points per game. He entered the day leading the SEC with 3.2 3-pointers per game, and shot 4 of 8 from behind the arc.

"I definitely feel like I'm getting more comfortable out there," Brown said. "It's a learning process. I'm just learning something from every game and moving forward."

Oriakhi's 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards, helped give Missouri a 40-18 advantage on the glass, including 24-7 in the first half. With Bowers missing his fifth consecutive game because of a sprained ligament in his right knee, Haith said the past few games have been "healthy" for Oriakhi to be the go-to guy.

"Whenever our guards miss shots, I feel I clean it up," Oriakhi said. "Offensive rebounding, I feel that's my best offense."

A 6-foot-9, 255-pound senior transfer from Connecticut, Oriakhi made 15 consecutive free throws spanning three games before missing his final attempt Saturday.

Rod Odom matched a career high with 17 points for Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4).

"There's not a whole lot to say about this going wrong or that going wrong," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They were much better and much faster. They shot better, rebounded way better. Every facet they whooped us."

The Commodores scored the first eight points of the second half and later narrowed the deficit to 56-39 with 14:39 remaining, but got no closer despite making 15 of 30 shots after the break.

The teams traded points through the opening 5 minutes, prompting Haith to take off his jacket in frustration. But after a dunk by Sheldon Jeter gave the Commodores an 11-8 lead with 15:25 left in the first half, Missouri scored 32 of the next 34 points.

Vanderbilt entered having won consecutive games for the second time this season, but struggled to keep pace with the Tigers, who made 17 of 31 shots in the first half.

"I thought we were improving coming into this game," Stallings said. "We had won two in a row, one a road game against a South Carolina team that came in here and played awfully well the other night. But we were just physically overmatched today. When they started making shots like that, we were in trouble."

Leading scorer Kedren Johnson, who averages 15.1 points per game, was held scoreless in the first half before scoring 11 after the break for the Commodores. A layup with 19:07 left was his first basket in three road conference games after missing his first 13 attempts.

The Tigers received a boost from Keion Bell, who scored two fast-break layups and two free throws in a span of three consecutive possessions during the run. Bell missed the team's previous game with a sprained ankle.

"I felt that earlier in the game we needed energy, we needed a spark somewhere along the line," Bell said. "So I just tried to provide that spark, just tried to put as much pressure on the ball as I can, and it turned out that it led to a lot of easy baskets the other way and I felt that was contagious throughout our team."

The game was Haith's second since CBSSports.com reported Monday that he would face NCAA charges of "unethical conduct" and "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" related to his time at the University of Miami following a nearly two-year investigation.

The NCAA announced Wednesday, however, that it was temporarily suspending its investigation of the school because of improper conduct by members of its enforcement program. NCAA President Mark Emmert said he expected an external review of his organization to be finished within two weeks, and would not be issuing any Notice of Allegations until then.

Despite off-court distractions and playing four of their next six games on the road, Missouri's players are just trying to focus on basketball.

"I definitely think everything's a mindset with this team," Oriakhi said. "I think all the pieces are there. . We have to build off this. We can't be satisfied."

 

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