COLUMBIA, Mo. — Growing up in Kansas City, there was a chance Trevor Releford would attend Missouri after being recruited by then-coach Mike Anderson.
Ending up at Alabama, he finally got the opportunity to play near family and friends on Tuesday night at his home-state school, which he says he wasn't close to attending. About 30 supporters watched Releford score a career-high 26 points and top 1,000 points for his career in an 84-68 loss to the 10th-ranked Tigers.
"I think it was a good opportunity to come back and play close to home and have my family come out and see me play," he said. "But I treated this game like any other SEC game. I just wanted to come in, get a win and worry about the next game after that."
Releford scored 19 points in the first half to top his average of 15.6. But he took just one shot over the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second half. The junior is the 46th player in school history to score 1,000 points but just the seventh with 1,000 points and 140 steals.
"I think they just played great discipline defense," Releford said of Missouri. "They helped each other, they talked, they communicated well. And I wasn't able to hit a couple shots I hit in the first half. I give it up to their `D', they did a good job."
Missouri's Alex Oriakhi couldn't remember Releford's name afterward but said the guard, and his three 3-pointers, exploited a hole in the Tigers' perimeter defense.
Rodney Cooper scored 11 points and Devonta Pollard added 10 for Alabama (8-6, 0-1 Southeastern Conference), which has lost six of eight. Coach Anthony Grant lost for the first time in seven career conference openers, three at VCU and four at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide managed to become just the second team this season to outrebound Missouri (12-2, 1-0), which leads the country with 46.7 per game. Alabama used its 16-12 advantage on the boards and an early 12-0 run to stay within four points at halftime, but the team couldn't keep up in the closing half, shooting only 39.3 percent.
"We couldn't get stops," Grant said. "To me that was the story of the second half. We needed our defense to hold for us tonight, and whether it was the press, transition, half-court, we did not defend the way we would need to defend to be able to come on the road against an opponent like Missouri and get a win."
Jabari Brown hit a career-high five straight 3-pointers after an early miss and Phil Pressey responded from a shaky first half with 11 points and 13 assists in Missouri's SEC debut.
Missouri's Laurence Bowers injured his right knee with about 6 minutes to go when Pressey fell on his leg under the basket. He will undergo an MRI for what coach Frank Haith believed was an MCL sprain. Bowers had 12 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Brown scored a career high 22 points on 7-for-11 overall shooting, three days after making only one of nine attempts in a two-point victory over Bucknell. The Oregon transfer has scored in double figures four of five games since becoming eligible at the semester break.
Earnest Ross added a season-best 19 points for Missouri and Oriakhi helped the Tigers pull away with 10 of his 16 points over the final 11 minutes, and he grabbed 11 rebounds. Oriakhi powered for two inside baskets in a 9-2 run that put the Tigers up 62-51 with 9 minutes to go and Alabama got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
Pressey had eight assists in the first half, largely negated by four turnovers including two giveaways in a span of just over a minute. One was so glaring he grabbed Levi Randolph for an intentional foul.
Missouri survived those mistakes behind 6-for-10 3-point shooting, with Brown going 3 for 4 and Ross 2 for 2.