In a funny twist, Missouri almost missed one of the best parts of a winning a rivalry game like this the trophy presentation. Of MUs players, only Bowers initially hung out on the court long enough to receive the trophy.
I was so shocked, Bowers said. I turned around, I was looking trying to find everybody and everybody was running toward the locker room, so I dont know what happened.
Theres a reason for this, of course. Along with junior point guard Phil Pressey, Bowers is one of only two scholarship players on the roster who had ever played in the Braggin Rights Game before Saturday.
Of course, Pressey forgot about the trophy, presentation, too.
One guy let me down, which was Phil, Bowers joked.
Sophomore forward Jabari Brown, a transfer from Oregon who made his MU debut Monday, finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in his first start.
The decision we made to start Jabari was based not just on him being in the starting lineup, but our rotations, coach Frank Haith said. We wanted Keion (Bell) starting on (Illini guard Brandon) Paul, and we wanted an offensive guy out there with him.
Things got a little chippy in the first half when Bowers and Illinois Sam McLaurin engaged in a brief, non-violent scrum that featured some yelling and posturing. Both were assessed technicals.
It was kind of in the heat of the moment, Bowers said. One of the guys fell on me, I feel like I got kicked in the face or something, I dont know what happened so I got kind of chippy, tried to get back at them. It was just part of the game.
Missouri promptly went on a 12-4 run to close the half, giving the Tigers a 41-35 halftime lead.
I thought we showed maturity coming together after that, Bowers said. It just got us fired up.
Saturdays game was physical, but Missouris players enjoyed the way the game was called.
I always feel like if youre going to let us play, be consistent the whole game, and I feel like they were, Bowers said.
Key play: After a bit of scrum, which resulted in technical fouls being issues to MUs Laurence Bowers and Illinois Sam McLaurin, Jabari Brown hit a three-pointer that gave Missouri a 32-31 lead.
Key stat: Illinois, which had made an average of 10 three-pointers a game, only hit four of 17 in the half.
Key play: With Missouri leading 73-70, point guard Phil Pressey found Bowers wide open for a dunk that gave the Tigers some much-needed cushion.
Key stat: Missouri outrebounded Illinois 58-35.
| Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org