Newcomer Alex Oriakhi Leads Tigers to Third Europe Victory
COLUMBIA -- Alex Oriakhi hasn't always been a focal point on the offensive side of the floor, but since his arrival at Mizzou Head Coach Frank Haith has worked with the club's newest player on becoming more assertive in the post. Oriakhi came through in a big way on Tuesday, scoring 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to lead Missouri Basketball to a 72-56 win over the Gent Dragons.
The senior from Lowell, Mass., scored six of the team's first eight points and hauled in eight rebounds during his top game of the tour thus far. He added a pair of dunks and helped Missouri dominate the paint once again during the 16-point win. Overall Mizzou outscored Gent 40-26 in the paint and the Tigers won the rebounding battle 40-30 to earn their third win of the tour.
"Alex was big tonight and we could kind of see this coming," Head Coach Frank Haith said. "We were just going to stay positive with him and keep giving him the opportunity to make plays in the low-block. Alex was getting good position, but he was so anxious once he caught the basketball. Tonight he was assertive and really attacked the rim."
Oriakhi wasn't the lone Tiger to come out firing. Keion Bell was efficient in his 27 minutes of playing time, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight boards, dishing four assists and ripping away three steals. Bell was also instrumental on defense, helping to harass Gent players into 20 turnovers.
"Keion played within himself tonight," Haith said. "He was under control and very patient. He used the dribble drive to attack the rim and he found guys for open looks. He could have had about three or four more assists, but we missed some perimeter jumpers early."
Like Oriakhi, newcomer Jabari Brown was in need of a big game and he broke through an early shooting slump with 12 fourth quarter points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Oakland, Calif., native hit a pair of treys and rocked the rim with a dunk to end any hopes of a home team comeback.
"It felt good getting some shots to fall," Brown said. "I feel like I am shooting the ball well, but they weren't going down. Sometimes you just need a bucket in transition to see the ball go through the rim and then you can relax a little bit. We got the tempo going in the fourth quarter and it was easier to get lost in transition. Guys found me and had the confidence to give me the ball."
Gent actually outscored Missouri, 17-16, in the second quarter to cut the lead to 33-28. Tony Criswell was Missouri's go-to guy in the third however, scoring six quick points to help the lead balloon to 15, 43-28, with just a couple minutes gone in the frame.
"That was a big stretch," Haith said. "Tony has played well over here and he is a confident guy in his jumper. That start of the second half set the tone for the rest of the way."
Overall Oriakhi led five Tigers in double figures with 16. Bell added 15 and Brown chipped in 14. Three Tigers had at least eight rebounds, led once again by Earnest Ross who had nine. The former Auburn standout added four assists, tied for the team lead with Michael Dixon and Bell.
"We were tired tonight, I could see that, but when you have guys fight through it and play with energy early, it becomes contagious," Haith said. "We travel to Paris tomorrow and have a couple of days off to get our legs back, but I have seen this team improve game-to-game."
Missouri will leave Belgium Wednesaday morning and travel nearly four hours by bus to Paris. The team returns to action on August 17 vs. Cergy. Game time is currently scheduled for 7 p.m.