Dennis Gates and Co. were desperate for a bounce back following three tough defeats, and they got it in the form of a 92-59 win over Central Arkansas at Mizzou Arena on Saturday.
Tamar Bates shined against Seton Hall, and he carried that momentum over into this game. He led the way with 25 points on 9-for-10 shooting, and it's safe to say that Bates appears to have found his niche within this Tiger offense. Sean East II tacked on 16 points and five boards while Connor Vanover went for 11 points as well.
Compared to the quality of shot Mizzou was seeing in the Illinois game, there was a night-and-day difference on Saturday. The Tigers shot 54% from the floor in this game and created plenty of quality looks at the rim to overcome another sluggish shooting performance from behind the arc.
Dominance on the glass was another refreshing sight for Gates. Mizzou enjoyed a +25 advantage on the boards, and Noah Carter led the way with eight rebounds. That all led to 23 second chance points and a 46 overall advantage in paint points.
It wasn’t necessarily wire-to-wire dominance, but Mizzou never trailed in this game. Bates got the show started with seven quick points in the first five minutes, continuing a strong recent stretch of play from the Indiana transfer.
After shooting 1-for-17 from behind the arc in the first half against Illinois, the Tigers hoped for a hotter start from distance in this one. Well, they only managed to shoot it at a 3-for-12 clip in the opening half against Central Arkansas, but a 53% mark from the floor as a whole made up for that. Vanover was a major reason why, as he was able to really take advantage of a major size mismatch and owned the rim for much of this game.
His presence forced UCA to chuck up 12 shots from behind the arc, making only three of them. Freshman phenom Tucker Anderson kept the Bears within striking distance for much of the half, but a 3-for-10 mark from star guard Carl Daughtery Jr. was less than ideal for the visitors.
Central Arkansas did cut the Tiger lead to 26-25 with 7:29 remaining in the first half, but Mizzou went into the break on a 20-6 run that spaced things out.
It was more of the same in the second half. Vanover and Bates led the way with 16 combined points, Aidan Show exploded for eight and the team as a whole began to attack more in transition, scoring nine points in the open floor after halftime.
The defensive intensity from Mizzou in this game was strong as well. The team forced 20 turnovers, and four players recorded 2+ steals. Vanover surprisingly tied with Anthony Robinson II to lead the way with three steals on the day, and UCA’s thin lineup was overwhelmed by the ball pressure from the likes of Robinson, Nick Honor and East II.
After the Bears went on a quick 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 65-44 with 13:21 remaining, the Tigers closed the game on a 27-15 run.
Mizzou will have a week off before it hosts Georgia (10-3) on Saturday, Jan. 6th to open conference play. The game can be seen at 12:00 p.m. CST on the SEC Network.