COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Kim Anderson says his team is a work in progress. But after a disappointing season opener, he can now rest a little easier after a 56-41 win against Valparaiso on Sunday.
''Friday night was an embarrassment, not to take anything away from'' Missouri-Kansas City, the first-year Missouri coach said about his team's 69-61 loss. ''To lose at home in your first game, I think our guys were somewhat tentative.''
That tentativeness showed up again in the team's first half against Valparaiso, as the Tigers led 24-23 at the break despite no player converting more than one field goal. The team finally gained some separation with a 14-2 run to take a 41-29 lead with 9:47 remaining.
Valparaiso never could get closer than seven the rest of the way.
Wes Clark scored 16 points to lead Missouri (1-1) while Johnathan Williams III added 10.
Anderson thought his team started to play more aggressively in the second half by attacking the middle of the court, rather than simply passing around the perimeter. The Tigers made 10 of their first 18 shots after the break and finished 20 of 50 for the game.
''I think we're coming together more as a team,'' Williams said. ''Just trying to learn about each other more and bond together as a team.''
E. Victor Nickerson led Valparaiso (1-1) with 12 points while Alec Peters added seven. Peters earned All-Freshman honors in the Horizon League last year with 12.7 points per game, but only played 27 minutes against Missouri because of foul trouble.
Peters collected two fouls in the first 2:55 and then another with 6:06 left in the opening half. He added a fourth 4 1/2 minutes after the break.
''There's no question it took us out of what we wanted,'' Drew said.
Both teams started 3 of 13 from the field, preventing either from leading by more than five in the first half. But the Crusaders couldn't keep up in the closing half, as coach Bryce Drew said his team was ''worn down'' by Missouri's size.
''When you get tired, I think a lot of our shots became short at the end just from fatigue,'' he said. ''I thought that definitely played a role in those last 10 minutes of the game.''
Valparaiso: The Crusaders haven't defeated a major-conference team since Washington in 2008 and won't face another this regular season. They were picked to finish fourth in the Horizon League after finishing in the same position last year.
Missouri: Attendance was announced at 5,369, slightly more than a third of Mizzou Arena's capacity, after about a half-inch of snow fell earlier in the day. . Freshman Jakeenan Gant missed his second consecutive game while the school reviews his eligibility.
Although Anderson said his team played more aggressively, the Tigers only shot 14 free throws, two fewer than against UMKC. The team converted 12 of them, though, compared with Valparaiso's seven-of-12 performance from the charity stripe.
Valparaiso won its opener Friday 90-76 against East Tennessee State thanks to 50 percent (26 of 52) shooting, including 10 of 18 from 3-point range. But the offense never could find its rhythm at Missouri without Peters consistently on the floor, finishing 33 percent (15 of 46) from the field.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
''We definitely needed a win,'' Clark said. ''We didn't know exactly where we stood before that game on Friday. It just woke us up some, made us a little bit more aware of where we needed to go and how to get there.''
Valparaiso hosts Indiana-South Bend on Wednesday.
Missouri hosts Oral Roberts on Wednesday.