One of the concerns facing Frank Haith during his second season in Columbia is the health and effectiveness of senior forward Laurence Bowers.
After an 83-69 victory over SIUE on Saturday, it is clear that Bowers is healthy and will be a huge key to Mizzou's success this season.
After missing all of last season recovering from a torn ACL, the No. 15 Tigers were led by Bowers' 20 points and seven rebounds in their season-opening victory at home.
Mizzou struggled early, trailing most of the first half before taking a 40-34 lead to half time. It was early in the second half where Bowers took over. During a two-minute stretch early in the second half, Bowers outscored SIUE 10-2 all on his own.
Bowers and point guard Phil Pressey were clearly the two best players on the floor Saturday night. But it is the health of Bowers that is important for a number of reasons.
The veteran brings important size to Mizzou's front court. Bowers measures 6'9'' and is a force not only on the boards, but also defensively in the paint. While Bowers did not register a blocked shot on Saturday, the forward's 123 career blocked shots ranks fourth all-time in school history.
Bowers also showed on Saturday that he is talented offensively. Bowers is a very good face-to-the-basket post player. Bowers can beat opponents off the dribble and with a nice 15-foot jump shot, which he displayed on several occasions.
Finally, while Bowers is bigger in stature, he can also get out and run, which he displayed by finishing a fast-break with a thunderous one-handed dunk on Saturday. Bowers is fully capable of filling a lane on the fast-break and will benefit from the play-making ability of Pressey.
Mizzou fans should be encouraged by the play of Bowers in the season opener. If Mizzou hopes to repeat the 30-win success of last season, Bowers will have to play a huge part.
Saturday proved that Bowers is capable of leading Mizzou to yet another outstanding season.