COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Strong defense and 21 points from Mark Smith gave Missouri the edge over Morehead State 70-52 on Wednesday night.
Missouri (4-1) jumped out to a 14-4 lead and kept Morehead State scoreless for a five-minute stretch. The Tigers then went cold from the 3-point range, making just 2 of 14 shots beyond the arc in the first half.
“They got our attention and made it a ball game,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said.
Missouri forward Reed Nikko - who had scored just four points through the team’s first four games - made a layup and free throw, and Kobe Brown added four key points to help the Tigers finish the half on a 9-0 run to lead 36-29.
Missouri kept its lead in the second half but let Morehead State (4-1) stay within comeback distance most of the game. Morehead State forced 17 turnovers, five committed by Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon.
“I don’t want to take anything from Morehead,” Martin said. “I thought we did a poor job of really just taking care of the ball. I thought we were careless.”
After being outrebounded 31-23 in Monday’s win against Wofford, Martin said rebounds were “one of our keys to the game.” The Tigers grabbed 45 rebounds compared to 28 from the Eagles.
“Coach put it on the board that we need to come out here and redeem ourselves,” Mark Smith said. “I thought I saw everyone going and crashing the boards, hitting bodies and boxing out.”
Mark Smith made 3 of 5 3-pointers. Martin said he thought Mark Smith drove with more power against Morehead State than he had against Xavier earlier this season.
Dru Smith added 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Tigers.
Jordan Walker scored 14 to lead the Eagles.
Missouri saw good production from the bench. Forward Parker Braun snagged four rebounds, and forward Tray Jackson scored seven points.
Morehead State: The Eagles outscored their opponents by double digits in three of their first four games but suffered their first loss on Wednesday. This week’s tough two-game road stretch should prepare them for the Ohio Valley Conference schedule.
Missouri: After a dominant showing against Wofford on Monday, the Tigers struggled in the first half against Morehead State. But the team showed it can still rely on its stingy defense to win games.
After scoring 16 against Wofford on Monday, Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon had just five points and accounted for five of the team’s 17 turnovers against Morehead State. “He sees teams that double him differently every game,” Martin said. “I think he’s doing a better job of recognizing how the double is coming at him.”
Morehead State: The Eagles play at Butler on Friday.
Missouri: The Tigers head to Kansas City for a Hall of Fame Classic game against Butler on Monday.
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