GETTING INSIDE Missouri had a chance to pull off the improbable and produce back-to-back road wins early in the Big 12 schedule. Coming off an overtime triumph at Texas Tech, the Tigers led at halftime against Oklahoma before suffering a 66-61 road defeat to the vulnerable Sooners. The last time Missouri won its first two Big 12 road games was in 1999, which also happened to be the year the Tigers enjoyed their highest finish (second) in the conference. "There's a thin line between winning and losing on the road, and we had our opportunities," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "We have no one to blame but ourselves." In addition to muffing opportunities down the stretch, including a turnover after grabbing a key steal in the backcourt down two with less than 20 seconds left, the Tigers simply didn't convert on shots. Their .359 percentage reflected 41 missed field goals, including 5-for-21 shooting from 3-point range. That won't get it done on the road, no matter how much havoc a team causes with a disruptive defense designed to speed up opponents. "At the end of the day, we didn't knock shots down," guard Zaire Taylor said. "I thought we had shots that we could make that we didn't make."
NOTES, QUOTES --Missouri's bothersome defense was at its best at the outset of the Jan. 16 game at Oklahoma. The Tigers forced turnovers on five straight possessions and seven overall in five-plus minutes, holding the Sooners scoreless while gaining a 10-0 lead. Missouri eventually generated 20 turnovers, the 14th time in 18 games an opponent committed that many mistakes. --Through 18 games, which included a 2-1 start in the Big 12, the Tigers were the best team in the conference defending the arc. They limited opponents to 29.2 percent shooting from that range.
ON THE SPOT: Missouri must find its touch from the field after shooting 34.7 percent against Texas Tech while still pulling out an overtime win, and then shooting 35.9 percent in a loss at Oklahoma. The Tigers missed seven free throws in the last five minutes of regulation against the Red Raiders, allowing that game to go into overtime while blowing an eight-point lead in the final 70 seconds. The poor shooting, as well as 29 turnovers in the two games, is a reflection of youth.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We came out a little flat (in the second half at Oklahoma) and turned it over three straight times, and before you know, it's a back-and-forth kind of a dogfight. Most times when you get into that kind of situation, the home team normally comes out on top." -- Missouri coach Mike Anderson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: Missouri coach Mike Anderson has been patient while bringing along his inexperienced frontcourt. While the bigs have not produced offensively at times, they are capable of wearing down bigger opponents. Such was the case in the Jan. 16 loss at Oklahoma. Tiny Gallon, a beefy freshman who serves as the Sooners' best inside presence, withered under the pressure the Tigers applied and went scoreless while playing just 14 minutes. If Missouri's front line can wear out opponents with defense, the Tigers' guards are good enough to take over the scoring burden.
GAME REVIEW: Missouri 74, Kansas State 68 Missouri 94, Texas Tech 89 (OT) Oklahoma 66, Missouri 61
GAME PREVIEW: vs. Nebraska, Jan. 23 at Kansas, Jan. 25 vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 30 vs. Texas A&M, Feb. 3 at Colorado, Feb. 6
IN FOCUS: Missouri gets a week off before a home game against Nebraska and will certainly work on its shooting after being held to worse than 40 percent while splitting with Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The matchup with the Huskers offers a contrast in styles. Nebraska is thin on depth and will try to elongate possessions with a deliberate pace, while Missouri will try to make the Huskers play fast. Containing F Christian Standhardinger, a midseason addition for Nebraska, is a must.
ROSTER REPORT: --F Laurence Bowers led Missouri with 15 points, including 13 in the second half, against Oklahoma. He managed a double-double after also grabbing a career-high 10 rebounds. Bowers has shot 50 percent or better in 14 games. --G Zaire Taylor only managed one basket, a 3-pointer, at Oklahoma, but did record eight assists against no turnovers. --F Justin Safford arrived on game day for the loss at Oklahoma after spending the previous day with family at a visitation for his grandmother, who died earlier in the week. Safford started, but played just four minutes in the second half because of foul trouble.