Dixon Leads Tigers to Victory in Belgium
COLUMBIA -- Missouri's Michael Dixon scored 31 points as the Tigers outscored a talented Bent-Schoenen Waregem squad, 63-47 over the final three quarters to earn an 81-72 victory in front of a vocal crowd in Waregem, Belgium.
The Tigers, who were playing their first game in two days, started slow and Bent came out firing, building a 12-2 advantage in the first 3:35. Bent hit four of its first five shots from the floor, including a pair of three-point plays and a trey to send the Tigers staggering.
Mizzou responded to score the next seven points, including four from the senior Dixon to slice the lead to 12-9, before a 9-2 run from the home squad pushed the lead back to 10, 21-11.
Missouri could not seem to find its rhythm offensively and the Belgium professional squad did an excellent job using screens to get open looks from bonus distance, but each time they were able to create space the Tigers would come storming back.
Trailing 28-21 at the start of the second quarter sophomore Danny Feldmann logged back-to-back hoops to pull Mizzou within three, 28-25. The Jefferson City native tipped in a Keion Bell miss and then stole an errant pass and raced down the floor for an easy layup. However five straight points by the hosts pushed the lead back to 33-25 and it increased to 37-27 before Alex Oriakhi scored four and Earnest Ross added a bucket to change momentum.
"I give them a lot of credit," Head Coach Frank Haith 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."
The Tigers did just that and after a late trey from Dixon closed the first half, the Tigers were down just four, 46-42, and the momentum was already beginning to shift.
"That was a big shot and it was big to get that stop just before the end of the half," Haith said. "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."
As Haith alluded to, Bent would score just 30 points the rest of the way and MU held them to just 28 percent from the floor and 0-of-9 from three-point range in the final two quarters. In fact Bent made just 7-of-25 shots in the final 20 minutes and the Tigers outrebounded them 25-11 during that stretch, with eight of those boards coming from Ross.
Ross finished the game with a 13-point, 10-board double-double and was Mizzou's emotional leader as the team stormed in front.
Ross tied the game with a pair of free throws early in the third quarter and Alex Oriakhi put Missouri in front for the first time, following his own miss with a lay-in. Bent would grab the lead one final time, but consecutive buckets from Dixon, Ross and Jabari Brown pushed the lead to five and set the tone for the remainder of the contest.
"That was a big stretch," Dixon said. "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."
Rosburg did just that. The rookie from the St. Louis area unleashed an array of post moves and scored seven points. He twice used up-and-under moves to fool the much older defender and found ways to impact the game, both at the foul line and knocking balls away from post players.
"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."
The Tigers had four players with four fouls and while much is due to an adjusted style of officiating in Europe, Haith was pleased to see players respond when called upon.
"You need that depth," Haith said. "If you want to create more of an identity on defense, you need to be able to body up with folks in the paint and not give up layups. I have confidence in guys like Tony, Stefan, Ryan and Danny."
Dixon iced the game with 12 fourth-quarter tallies. He finished with 31 points, while adding six boards and five assists. Ross (13) and Oriakhi (10) also found their way into double-figures.
Missouri returns to action with a game on Tuesday vs. Gent. Game time is currently slated for 7:30 p.m.
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