By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, Mo. — At least for a half, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville gave No. 15 Missouri all it could handle.
Jerome Jones hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, while reserve Michael Messer added 13 in an 83-69 loss at Missouri on Saturday.
The biggest blemish for the Cougars was the performance of Mark Yelovich, the team’s top returning scorer who was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting with four fouls.
SIU Edwardsville came out firing from long range, hitting six of its first 14 3-point attempts. Jones tied his career high with four 3-pointers in the half and had 14 points, bettering last year’s 12.7-point average.
The Cougars led for an 11-minute stretch in the first half by as many as six and tied Missouri in rebounds with 26. But the Tigers outmuscled SIU Edwardsville 24-14 in the second half and stitched together an 8-0 run across halftime and a 10-2 run a few minutes later.
“We started getting careless, a couple turnovers and a couple quick shots that instantly turn into transition points,” said Messer, who only played seven games last season with an injured wrist.
SIU Edwardsville averaged 72.5 field goal attempts in its two exhibition wins, 20 more than its 2011 season average. The Cougars attempted 69 field goals Saturday and shot 33 percent.
“We want to be an up-tempo team, we want to be an aggressive team, but at the same time, we want to make sure we are disciplined at doing both,” coach Lennox Forrester said. “It’s kind of a catch-22, because you want your guys to play fast, but at the same time, they think that playing fast is taking quick shots.”
Jones’ personal-best day from long range helped the Cougars weather the loss of Kris Davis, who finished with 11 points after sitting out the final 18:47 of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. Davis led the nation with a 60-percent 3-point percentage last season.
“I thought he made some big shots to keep us in the game,” Forrester said of Jones. “Our defense wasn’t particularly great, but at least he was scoring to keep us going.”
Laurence Bowers had 20 points and seven rebounds in his return from a knee injury that sidelined him all of last season. Bowers outscored the Cougars 10-2 by himself during a two-minute stretch early in the second half for the Tigers, who are ranked to start the season for a third straight year.
Phil Pressey scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half and Alex Oriakhi, part of a strong transfer class, had 15 rebounds and eight points for the Tigers.
Missouri won its 66th in a row at home against non-conference opponents since the end of the 2005-06 season without guard Michael Dixon, who is suspended for violating team rules. Dixon, perhaps the best sixth man in the nation for last season’s 30-win team, also did not dress in both exhibitions.
The Tigers won their home opener for the 38th time in 39 seasons in front of a late-arriving crowd of 10,054, many likely watching the Missouri football team’s overtime victory at Tennessee that ended about 45 minutes before tip-off.
Freshman Negus Webster-Chan hit all three of Missouri’s 3-pointers in the first half, the last two coming over the final 2½ minutes to help build a 40-34 lead. The Tigers trailed most of the half, getting their first lead at 27-26 on Webster-Chan’s 3-pointer from the corner off a feed from Pressey with about 6½ minutes to go.
Missouri took its largest lead of the game after outscoring SIU Edwardsville 7-0 over the final 2:55.
SIU Edwardsville was 10-17 last season, its first in the Ohio Valley Conference, and is among just six Division-I schools with no freshmen. The school is 0-4 against current members of the SEC and 0-5 against Top 25 teams.