Missouri cruises past Nicholls State 74-54

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Alex Oriakhi had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Earnest Ross scored 16 points and No. 14 Missouri beat Nicholls State 74-54 on Friday night.

   The Tigers (3-0) put to rest their tendency to start slowly -- at least for one game -- after senior forward Laurence Bowers promised to fix the team's energy problems after Missouri shot 23 percent in the first half Tuesday night against Alcorn State. Missouri used a 7-0 run within the first four minutes and wouldn't relinquish the lead after that.

   Missouri shot 22 of 51, including 39.3 percent in the first half, bettering its 31 percent from its first two games. The Tigers also hit 7 of 12 from 3-point range and outrebounded Nicholls State 41-25.

   Fred Hunter scored 22 points and T.J. Carpenter added 14 for Nicholls State (0-2), which has dropped both its games this season to Southeastern Conference teams. The Colonels lost to Vanderbilt on Saturday in their opener, 80-65. Nicholls State led by four points with less than nine minutes remaining in that game.

   Missouri jumped out to its largest lead of the game -- 54-32 -- on Phil Pressey's 3-pointer with 13:46 remaining. The Tigers used an 11-1 run over a 3 1/2-minute stretch near the end of the first half that made the score 25-14, but a 9-2 Colonels run followed to narrow the gap, and Missouri led 32-25 at the break.

   Nicholls State took advantage of eight Missouri turnovers in the first half, scoring nine points off the miscues. But the Colonels turned it over 10 times in the second, and Missouri converted them into 17 points.

   Oriakhi shot only 4 of 10, continuing his struggles from the field, but still raised his season field goal percentage to 37.5 percent. He did most of his damage at the free throw line, where he went 9 of 10. He also became the first Missouri player to pull down 10 or more rebounds in his first three games since Malcolm Thomas did so in 1983-84.

   Michael Dixon again participated in the pregame shootaround but remained on the bench for the game, suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Missouri coach Frank Haith has said he would let reporters know what the infraction was only when the suspension is lifted.

   Nicholls State fell to 3-18 on the road against non-Southland Conference opponents since the 2009-10 season, and 0-2 in the last two seasons against ranked teams. The Colonels take on independent New Orleans on Nov. 26 before heading to No. 21 Michigan State on Dec. 1 for their only current ranked opponent remaining on the schedule.

   Missouri won its 68th consecutive game at home against non-conference opponents, dating to the 2005-06 opener against Sam Houston State. The Tigers won their only previous matchup with Nicholls State, 66-57 on Dec. 1, 1998, in Columbia.

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