Missouri fans have been waiting for a game like this from sophomore forward Jakeenan Gant.
After a nine-game suspension last season, Gant’s career started with a 13-point performance last December against Xavier.
He’d had two more double-digit scoring games in the next 28 career appearances before scoring a season-high 11 with a season-high six rebounds Friday during a 78-71 win against Northern Illinois at Mizzou Arena.
“We’ve really encouraged him to take the ball to the basket more,” Anderson said. “Sometimes jump shots don’t fall, and he’s got a good first step. He’s gotten a lot better around the basket … and I’m just so happy for him, because he’s a guy that never complains and works hard every day. I’m just happy to see him have some success.”
The six boards are one off Gant’s career-high of seven last season at Arkansas.
“He was huge for us,” freshman guard Terrence Phillips said. “He had a layup, he had an and-one — those are plays we have to make down the stretch. It’s good to see Jakeenan being Jakeenan.”
Missouri sees it enough in practice to know what Gant’s capable of, especially when he avoids foul trouble.
“We see every day in practice he’s capable of providing a big spark for us,” senior Ryan Rosburg said. “He can do a lot of things. He’s just so athletic and long. … It was great to see him have some success tonight.”
Freshman Kevin Puryear said Gant, who wasn’t available for interviews, changed the game with his activity on the boards.
“It was a really big night for him, and I’m glad I got to see him work tonight,” Puryear said. “His practice habits, not saying they were bad, but they’re different now, and he’s adjusting to the game.”
BY THE NUMBERS
.643. Second-half field-goal percentage by Missouri, which went 18 of 28 from the floor. Not bad for a team that entered the game shooting .431 on the season.
13:4. Missouri’s second-half assist-to-turnover ratio after committing 11 turnovers with only five assists in a sloppy first half. Freshman Terrence Phillips, sophomore Namon Wright and junior Wes Clark each had three second-half assists.
41. Points from Missouri’s frontcourt in the win. Freshman Kevin Puryear led the way with a team-high 17, while sophomore Jakeenan Gant added a season-high 11 and junior Russell Woods matched his season-high with nine.