By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern showed some positive signs during their 83-66 loss Thursday night at Oral Roberts University.
Today the Lions take a giant step up in competition when they tackle the Missouri Tigers. Tipoff is at 2 p.m. at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
“We’ll keep it in perspective,” Lions coach Robert Corn said. “What we will be looking for is playing hard and execution. We’re not going to focus on the scoreboard. We’ll try to compete as hard as we can and do as many positive things as we can.”
The Tigers, under second year head coach Frank Haith, are ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press preseason poll and 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Tigers are picked third in their inaugural SEC preseason poll behind defending national champion Kentucky and Florida.
The Tigers return only three players from last year’s team, including guard Phil Pressey, who was named SEC preseason player of the year.
New players accounted for 73 points and 34-of-39 rebounds in the Tigers 91-58 victory over Northwest Missouri State on Monday night. Earnest Ross, 6-foot-5 junior transfer from Auburn, scored 22 points, and Keion Bell, 6-4 senior guard and a transfer from Pepperdine, added 20 points.
The Lions’ two returning starters reached double figures against ORU — 18 points for junior forward Jordan Talbert and 14 for junior guard Marquis Addison. ORU took command with a 16-0 run in the first half and a 15-0 spurt early in the second half.
“It was a game to build on,” Corn said. “We had a lot of positives. Our guys have an understanding that when we execute, we can get a good look at the basket. A lot of times we scored, and even when we didn’t score, you can live with that.
“Defensively when we got in the gaps, we did a nice job. But when we got out of the gaps and let them split us, bad things happened. It was a good learning tool for us to prepare for the season.”
It’s the second straight year Missouri Southern and Missouri have played an exhibition game. Last year the Tigers won 114-68 in Joplin in the One State One Spirit Classic Presented by Leggett & Platt.
Perhaps the Tigers should schedule an exhibition game against the Lions every season. The last two times MSSU and MU have played, the Tigers went on to post 30-win seasons — 31-7 in 2008 and 30-5 last year.