Starting or not, Bowers producing good numbers for Missouri

Missouri junior Laurence Bowers leads the Big 12 with 43 blocked shots.

Missouri junior Laurence Bowers leads the Big 12 with 43 blocked shots. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA (AP) — No. 13 Missouri’s top intimidator has been coming off the bench lately. Instead of sulking about getting bumped from the lineup, Laurence Bowers has stepped up the production.

The 6-foot-8 junior leads the Big 12 with 43 blocked shots entering tonight’s Big 12 matchup against Iowa State (14-5, 1-3 Big 12). Game time is 8 p.m. (ESPNU-TV).

Bowers and freshman guard Phil Pressey, fast emerging after missing nearly a month with a broken right ring finger, lead a strong second wave on a roster that goes 10 deep. Coach Mike Anderson says it doesn’t matter who starts in his all-court pressing, wear-’em-down game, and players are buying into it.

Eight of them got at least 17 minutes against Kansas State and the other two, freshman Ricky Kreklow and inside reserve Steve Moore, played nine minutes each.

As a top reserve the last three games, Bowers is shooting 61 percent.

“I think Laurence enjoys playing with Phil, I really do,” Anderson said. “He has a great feel for the game, he gives you an experienced guy that can make a lot of things happen. He anchors that group down, he really does.”

The last two games, the reserves have totaled 60 points. That depth was instrumental against Kansas State, held scoreless for nearly five minutes down the stretch in a pullaway Tigers victory Monday.

“We have a number of guys who can hurt you,” Anderson said. “We had a lot more in the tank going down the stretch than Kansas State.”

Besides utilizing long arms to intimidate shooters inside, Bowers is second in scoring (11.9 points), minutes (25.9), shooting percentage (54.7) and rebounding (6.1) for the Tigers (16-3, 2-2).

He started the first 16 games before Anderson switched to 6-foot-8 senior Justin Safford after a loss at Colorado in the conference opener, a move for team chemistry rather than a demotion given Bowers had 15 points and tied the school record with eight blocks. Last season, Bowers made the Big 12 all-reserve team even though he started just the last six games.

Marcus Denmon played 30 minutes against Kansas State, and Bowers was second-highest with 27 minutes. He contributed 10 points, three rebounds, an assist and a block — and one of the team’s most impressive dunks of the season, a one-handed stuff off a feed from Pressey.

“Once we got that stop on defense, we had a transition and that defense led to a highlight reel,” Pressey said.

Pressey, the son of former NBA guard Paul Pressey, is pushing just as hard for playing time. Though still wearing a glove to protect the broken finger on his shooting hand, he’s made seven of his last nine from 3-point range and had the best all-around game against Kansas State with 13 points, four steals and three assists in 24 minutes.

“His confidence and swagger IQ is definitely beyond his freshman class,” guard Kim English said. “He thinks the game, he sees the game. I was kind of joking with him, calling him Reggie Miller after the last game.”

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