Missouri’s third game of its European trip also proved to be its first test.
Thanks in part to a 31-point effort by senior guard and Lee’s Summit West grad Michael Dixon, the Tigers held off Bent-Schoenen Waregem 81-72 Monday afternoon in Belgium.
The Tigers, however, had to earn it. They trailed 37-27 in the second quarter before mounting a comeback, cutting the halftime deficit to 46-42 on a Dixon three-pointer.
“That was a big shot and it was big to get that stop just before the end of the half,” Haith said in a news release. “If they make that three, it’s back to seven, so our defense finally got its footing and allowed us to seize control in the second half.”
Missouri ramped up its defense in the second half, holding Waregem to only 30 points the rest of the way on 28 percent shooting. Meanwhile, the Tigers surged back to take the lead, only to surrender it one more time before Dixon, junior forward Earnest Ross (13 points, 10 rebounds) and sophomore forward Jabari Brown scored consecutive baskets that gave Missouri a five-point lead it would not relinquish.
“That was a big stretch,” Dixon said in the statement. “We would cut the lead down in the first half and they would hit back-to-back shots and it would be seven or eight points again. For us to get the lead, give it up and then go on that run really set the tone. Earnest was a warrior out there and Ryan Rosburg gave us some great minutes.”
Dixon, who also had six rebounds and five assists and played 37 of 40 possible minutes, was certainly the star of the game, but he had help from his teammates, as Ross (30 minutes) and senior center Alex Oriakhi (10 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes) also scored in double figures. Senior guard Keion Bell played 34 minutes and had four points and five rebounds, but Missouri’s fourth leading scorer on this night was freshman big Ryan Rosburg, who scored seven points in only 17 minutes and drew Haith’s praise.
“I really like what Ryan did for us tonight,” Haith said. “You look at what he and Danny did, they really gave us quality production and they showed how important it is to have depth.”
In all, Haith was pleased with his team’s performance against a veteran team that came out firing.
“I give them a lot of credit,” he said. “They are a veteran club, so I knew they would have a lot of confidence coming in. I knew they would come out firing and they hit some shots early. I wanted our guys to hang in there and just stay patient. Once we did that, everything fell into place.”
Missouri will again take the floor Tuesday night against Gent in Belgium.