It all clicked

COLUMBIA --- Wow, what a difference Laurence Bowers makes when he's in uniform.

The Missouri Tigers are SO much better.

And Bowers doesn't even have to play.
Prior to Saturday's game, Bowers (strained knee) was in street clothes the previous four games for Missouri, and the Tigers went 2-2 --- looking bad in wins over two bad teams, looking awful in blowout-losses to a pair of good teams.

But everything clicked on this day, as the No. 22 Tigers used a devastating 38-4 run in the first half in an 81-59 rout of the Vanderbilt Commodores before an announced sellout crowd of 15,061 at Mizzou Arena.

Bowers --- who is still listed game-to-game --- simply served as a 6-foot-8 cheerleader in a basketball uniform with a great seat.

"Since he's out --- and there's no crying about who you don't have --- you have to focus on who you do have," Missouri senior Alex Oriakhi said. "Since LBo (Bowers) is out, we have to have other guys step up."

Oriakhi did his part Saturday, as he finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double and seventh of the season.

"Oriakhi is a load in there, he's a tough guy to box out, and he had his way with us today," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.

The 6-9, 255-pound Oriahki is one of several Tigers who look like they spend a lot of time in the tatoo chair, and even more in the weight room.

But after getting pushed around in recent games, the Tigers finally flexed those muscles and outrebounded the Commodores by a whopping 40-18.

"We got back to our rebounding ways," Tigers coach Frank Haith said.

Before we go any further, we should not confuse Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4 SEC) with a good team. Or even an average team. In two games this season, the Commodores scored just 33 points --- one in a 23-point loss to Arkansas, which isn't very good, either; the other in a 17-point loss to a team called Marist.

Marist? Really? By 17 points?

But Vanderbilt --- which has also lost to Middle Tennessee State --- lost its top six-scorers and 88 percent of its scoring from last year's team.

For a 12 1/2 minute stretch of the first half Saturday, it looked like they'd lost 100 percent of it.

The Commodores had an 11-8 lead when a 3-pointer by Jabari Brown tied it with 15 minutes left. That started a 13-0 run by the Tigers (15-4, 4-2), which was soon followed by an 19-0 run.

In all, this turned out to be a 38-4 run, which really wasn't a run at all --- it was a run-over. By the time it hit the 21/2-minute mark, a three-point deficit had turned into a 31-point lead, 46-15.

"I thought our guys were excellent on defense, that's what got us going," Haith said. "And then we made some shots, which always helps."

Brown, a sophomore who finished with 21 points, hit three of Missouri's six 3-pointers during this explosion

"He's starting to get really, really comfortable in our offense, but he plays beyond his years," Haith said. "You talk about how he only played two games at Oregon, so he's really a freshman."

"I texted him last night about being a complete player and just thriving on being a complete player."

The rims were quite kind on Saturday, unlike Tuesday night's horrid shooting performance against South Carolina on what must have been carnival rims.

The Tigers attempted six less 3-balls Saturday and made six more, from 5-of-27 to 11-of-21, and were a sparkling 55 percent overall from the floor.

Further proof of Saturday's oversized rims:

In the second half, some guy had three chances to make one 3-pointer during a timeout, and possibly win two airline tickets to anywhere in the continental United States. He splashed home his first effort. Let's hope he doesn't choose Kansas City to St. Louis.

But that was nothing.

Another guy --- his name is Andrew Turpin, an MU freshman from Kansas City --- made a halftime, half-court shot to win $5,000.

Missouri led 49-20 at the half and the second half was a mere formality. Vanderbilt got no closer than 17, while Missouri led by as many as 30.

Phil Pressey added 12 points and six assists, while Keion Bell, who was returning from an ankle injury, totaled 12 points and had three of Missouri's six steals.

"We were completely outplayed, so there's not a whole lot to say about this going wrong or that going wrong," Stallings said. "They were much bigger, much faster, shot better, rebounded way better.

"Every facet, they whooped us."

Now, can Missouri take this on the road at LSU on Wednesday night? The Tigers are 0-3 in true road games this season, losing the last two by a combined 46 points.

"We just have to calm down; we've let the atmosphere get to us," Oriakhi said. "The crowd, like (former Tiger) Kimmie (English) told us, doesn't block a shot, doesn't get a stop and doesn't make shots.

"We just have to run our offense and play defense like we know we can."

Having Bowers in uniform --- and on the court --- wouldn't hurt, either.