COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Mark Smith scored 19 points on 5-for-8 shooting from 3 and Missouri triumphed over Central Arkansas 68-55 in its season opener Tuesday night.
Smith – a University of Illinois transfer – kicked off his sophomore campaign with a bang, providing the main source of offense for the Tigers in his team debut.
After trailing 5-3 to start, Smith led the Tigers on a 15-0 run to open up a commanding lead, drilling a trio of 3-pointers to fuel the stretch.
Missouri’s defense took care of the rest, limiting the Bears to 33 percent shooting.
Despite Smith’s strong performance, Missouri’s offense was held to just 32.4 percent shooting in the first half. The Tigers improved in the second half, shooting 55.6 percent.
The offense missed the versatility of sophomore forward Jontay Porter. The Tigers lost Porter to a torn ACL and MCL in a scrimmage with Southern Illinois in October.
Missouri’s lack of scoring at times opened up windows for the Bears to climb back into the game. Central Arkansas trimmed Missouri’s lead to four with 4:57 to go in the first half and seven with 10:51 in the second. The Tigers pulled away with an 11-1 run midway through the second half.
Central Arkansas: The Bears missed the presence of last year’s top two scorers, Jordan Howard and Mathieu Kamba. Howard scored 25.1 points per game and Kamba averaged 13.8.
Missouri: This team is bound to endure some growing pains with the loss of Porter and the addition of a flurry of new faces. Missouri’s offense progressed as the game went on and the defense played a solid 40 minutes.
Central Arkansas plays its first home game Thursday against Hendrix College.
Missouri hits the road for a matchup against Iowa State.