No. 14 Missouri 74, Nicholls St. 54. With AP Photos.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Nicholls State forward Fred Hunter says he feels better after he sat out last season recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
He's off to a good start.
Hunter scored more than 20 points for the second time in as many games against a Southeastern Conference team in a 74-54 loss at No. 14 Missouri on Friday.
Hunter scored 22 points after his 21-point performance in an 80-65 season-opening loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Unlike that game, when Nicholls State (0-2) led by four points with less than nine minutes remaining, the Colonels couldn't get within 14 points of Missouri (3-0) in the final 15 minutes.
T.J. Carpenter added 14 points.
"For us, I feel like we competed, we kept them on their toes, we made them nervous maybe for the first half," Nicholls State coach J.P. Piper said.
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.
Alex Oriakhi had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Earnest Ross scored 16 points for the Tigers.
Oriakhi's effort was his second double-double of the season, matching his total of last season at Connecticut.
"Usually, guys, they think they're better than what they are, he's one of those guys that's the other way," coach Frank Haith said.
Oriakhi did most of his damage at the free throw line after getting fouled several times during second-chance opportunities thanks to seven offensive rebounds, going 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 in 1983-84.
Oriakhi continued his struggles from the field, shooting 4 of 10.
He says he's rushing when he gets excited for close-range shots, but also thankful for Haith telling him he'll continue to receive the ball.
"I think Coach Haith and this coaching staff are just doing a great job of giving me confidence," Oriakhi said. "The most important thing, he's let me play through my mistakes. That's something I wasn't able to do last year."
Missouri ended its tendency to start slowly - at least for one game - after senior forward Laurence Bowers promised to fix the team's 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.
Despite the quicker start, Haith said his team wasn't going "to hit a home run in the first five minutes of the game" against Nicholls State (0-2).
"I thought we did come out with a better focus tonight in terms of our energy," Haith said.
Missouri jumped out to its largest lead of the game at 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.
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 the mistakes into 17 points.
Keion Bell added a season-high 13 for the Tigers, who travel to the Bahamas to face Stanford on Thanksgiving in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
Haith said his team needs to focus on taking charges and blocking out, but was more optimistic than after Tuesday's game when he said the team wouldn't be as good as it would be in January.
"We're really close to really getting to the level I think we need to be at," Haith said. "So I'm excited about where this team is headed."