Alex Oriakhi had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks without the 6-foot-9 Bowers as an inside complement to help the 17th-ranked Tigers rebound from their biggest loss of the season with a 79-62 victory over Georgia on Wednesday night.
“I knew it was a game where I had to demand the ball and post up strong,” Oriakhi said. “I knew I had an advantage inside and my teammates did a great job of finding me, and when they missed shots I did my best to clean it up.”
Coach Frank Haith said he wasn’t sure if Bowers, who leads Missouri with a 16.8-point average and is second with 6.9 rebounds, would be ready Saturday at No. 10 Florida. Bowers has a sprained right knee.
“Oh, he’s doing great, he’s actually doing really well,” Haith said. “We got some really good news at how it’s coming along. I still don’t know that he’ll play Saturday, but we’re really pleased with his progress thus far.”
Even with Bowers in street clothes at the end of the bench, Georgia had its hands full.
“In some ways, it makes them more difficult to defend when he’s not in the game,” coach Mark Fox said. “I know he’s a terrific player, but he doesn’t shoot the 3 quite as much as some of these other guys.”
Earnest Ross scored 15 points while surviving two spills for the Tigers (13-3, 2-1 SEC), who were held to a season-low 49 points in a 15-point loss at Mississippi on Saturday. Missouri is 10-0 at home this season and 26-1 at the Mizzou Arena in two seasons under Haith.
Vincent Williams had a career-best 23 points on 7-for-10 shooting for Georgia (6-10, 0-3), nine more than his previous best after entering with a 4.1-point average. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs’ lone player averaging in double figures, added 15 points.
“Vincent’s really the only player who’s been in our program for the three-and-a-half years I’ve been there,” Fox said. “And he knows what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to function.”
Ross was held to three points at Mississippi while missing six of seven shots, Oriakhi had four points and six rebounds and Missouri was 2 for 18 from 3-point range. The Tigers were 9 for 22 against Georgia, getting three apiece from Ross and Jabari Brown, who added 15 points.
“Coach always talks about ‘How do you handle adversity, how do you play when things don’t go your way?” Oriakhi said. “I think it was a great test and we’ll have to build off this.”
Ross missed the last 2:52 of the first half after injuring his left leg. Then he landed hard on his back after getting fouled under the basket with just under 6 minutes to go, making one of two free throws not long before limping to the bench for good.
“Earnest is OK,” Haith said. “Earnest played great, he was very aggressive and all over the court. He’s an energy guy.”
Georgia is in a stretch of three Top 25 opponents in five games that started with a 33-point loss at Florida Jan. 9 and ends with Florida, now No. 10, at home on Jan. 23. The Bulldogs have lost three straight but shot 46 percent.
“I see us heading pretty far, we’ll be fine,” Williams said. “Just a tough start, we’ll be fine.”
Haith juggled his lineup, with forwards Tony Criswell and Stefan Jankovic each getting their first start in place of Ross and Keion Bell. Jankovic scored Missouri’s first five points but lasted just 4 minutes in the half after drawing three fouls, the last just 37 seconds after re-entering.
“Stefan, he puts his hands on everybody,” Haith said. “Those are easy fouls for the referees when you do that.”
Bell got a lot of work at point guard in relief of Pressey, who had five points and six assists in 30 minutes, and had 14 points and four assists.
Ross scored a career-high 30 points for Auburn against Georgia on Feb. 5, 2011.
The Tigers hit five 3-pointers and twice led by 14 points in the first half, but were outscored 8-2 over the last 3½ minutes as Georgia shaved the gap to eight points at the break.
Six players were whistled for at least two fouls in the first half, four from Missouri.