|Mercer's Daniel Coursey, center, loses control of the ball as it is stripped by Missouri's Steve Moore, left, as Michael Dixon, right, moves in during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in the first round of the CBE Classic in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)|
Pressey helps No. 24 Mizzou top Mercer 81-63
COLUMBIA, Mo.—Coming off two knee surgeries, it would be understandable if it took Jibri Bryan a few games to regain his composure on the court.
But in just the second game of his college career, Bryan scored 19 points to lead Mercer in an 81-63 loss to No. 24 Missouri on Monday night.
"It felt great," Bryan said. "Really it started from the bench, encouraging everyone else. When you get in the game, you already feel like you're in the game, so it just flowed right in to it."
Missouri (2-0) built a 16-point halftime lead and pushed it to 61-39 midway through the second half before Mercer (1-1) used a 14-2 run to get within 10 points, capitalizing on Missouri's 10 turnovers in the second half.
"When we sped the game up, they started turning it over and we started making some plays and our guys just hung in there and kept fighting the rest of the game," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said.
Missouri's Phil Pressey had a career-high 22 points with four assists and five steals. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound guard had contemplated leaving to go to Arkansas alongside coach Mike Anderson, who joined the Razorbacks this year after recruiting Pressey at Missouri.
But it wasn't a perfect night for Pressey, who received some words after the game from new coach Frank Haith about committing three turnovers in the second half.
"I have to take control of the game, and finish the game like a great point guard should do," Pressey said.
In the first round of the CBE Classic, Missouri extended its school-record winning streak over nonconference opponents at home to 60 games, since the 2005-06 opener. The Tigers entered the season ranked for the first time since 2003-04 coming off three NCAA tournament bids, and gave Haith his second victory at the school.
Kim English added 18 points and Michael Dixon had 14 as Missouri used its speed to force 14 steals. Dixon and Pressey combined for 18 points in the Tigers' first game against Southeast Missouri State on Friday.
Mercer, picked to finish in the middle of the Atlantic Sun Conference, started one senior and four sophomores after losing two-thirds of its scoring and 60 percent of its rebounding from last season. The loss of seniors Jeff Smith and Brandon Moore leaves the team with 12 players on the roster who are freshmen or sophomores.
Justin Cecil, the lone senior on the roster and a former junior college teammate of Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, added nine points for the Bears.
"It was pretty cool going up against him at this level," Cecil said. "It was nice. It was something I was always hoping to get to do."
Bud Thomas, who scored a career-high 18 points against Emory on Saturday, was limited to a field goal and free throw at Missouri.
The Tigers lack height without 6-foot-9 Laurence Bowers, out for the season with a knee injury, and often had four guards on the court, but Mercer failed to take advantage on the boards, getting outrebounded by four.
"Rebounding is not just about how tall you are," Haith said. "It's about your desire, your passion. Paying attention to detail and blocking out. Those are the fundamentals."
After Mercer closed within 63-53, English hit a 3-pointer with 5:12 left to end the threat.
Missouri leads the series, 4-0. It was the first time the schools met since 1996.