Missouri is hard enough to beat at home (16-0 this year, one loss under head coach Frank Haith, and winners of 82 of the last 86). Add in the revenge factor? Almost impossible.
Missouri (21-8, 10-6 SEC) avenged its 73-70 January loss at LSU with an 89-76 win over LSU (17-10, 8-8) behind double-doubles from seniors Laurence Bowers (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Alex Oriakhi (18 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) and “Good Flip” (15 points, nine assists) Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
Take away an early LSU run and some 3-point bombing, Missouri would have won this game by 30, or more. But, you can’t do that, I know. In a very exciting first half, Missouri scored the first six points of the game, but LSU – like they did in Baton Rouge – went off from 3 (6-8) and went on a 25-6 run for a 25-12 lead. But, still I was not worried. The Tigers are a 34% 3-point shooting team, so it wouldn’t keep up – much like South Carolina on Thursday. Missouri answered with an 11-2 run to make it 27-23, then extended the run to 17-4 with six straight Earnest Ross points (a 3 from the corner and an old-fashioned 3-point play) and 19-4 with a Pressey steal and missed lay-up followed by a Keion Bell dunk. The Tigers, up 41-33, threatened to open up a double-digit lead, but Anthony Hickey – who hit 5 first half 3’s – hit back to back 3’s as the defenders continued to go below the screen – to pull LSU close and Missouri went into the locker room up 43-39.
As expected, Missouri’s offense continued to roll and LSU’s shooting (8-15 from 3 in the first half) cooled in the second half (4-13) and Missouri pulled away. Mizzou again opened an 8-point lead at 52-44. A Bowers And-1 made it 57-47 at the 16:40 mark. A NWC (Negus Webster-Chan) 3 made it 67-54 seconds after another Ross 3 from the corner made it a 10-point game again. Missouri opened its biggest lead – 76-60 – but LSU, which started the second half 1-9 from 3, hit three in a row to cut the deficit to 78-69 with 4:30 remaining and crept within 80-73, but Missouri was just too good.
It was all good for Pressey again. First and foremost, Pressey became the first player in Mizzou and SEC history with back-to-back 200 assist seasons. Impressive. Kudos for that, but for Missouri fans, more importantly – he was so, so good Saturday. Wow. He is so good and was oh so good today. I know he has made some mistakes and he has been highly criticized, but he is one of the most dynamic point guards – if not players – in the nation and its sad that most fans don’t appreciate how good he really is. Dude is really good. REALLY, REALLY good.
And, when he plays like he did Saturday, he is one of the best players in the nation. He started the game off doing what he does best – setting up his teammates. Then, he hit a few jumpers, and when he does that, he is nearly un-guardable. Then defenders can’t go below the screen because they have to respect the shot, making it that much easier for him to get into the paint and find 1) a teammate for an easy shot (or dunk), or an 2) open 3 or 3) an easy shot for himself. He is simply unguardable off the dribble, and if he is hitting some jumpers, it’s even easier for Flip. He brought out the Steve Nash-esque drive the basket, then the baseline until he finds someone open. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. And so is the offense when it happens.
To put things into perspective, Flip has made or assisted on 41% of Missouri’s field goal’s this year. He finished with 15 points on 5-11 FG (2-5 3PT) and added five rebounds and two steals with his nine assists. Just two turnover.
- Consecutive games now that NWC has contributed in meaningful minutes. That is a very positive sign. Looks like he may be playing himself into the eighth player that gets the leftover minutes instead of Ryan Rosburg.
- Earnest Ross is so, so good from the corner. He was 2-2 from the corner from 3, 0-2 elsewhere.
- Missouri dominated the paint again, finishing with 50 points in the paint and outscored LSU 24-11 on second chance points.
- Defense, defense, defense. Missouri’s weakness is still its defense. Its no surprise team’s hit 3 after 3 against the Tigers after watching poor rotation on defense, going under the screen beyond the 3-point line and “just standing there with their hands down” when a guy shoots a wide-open jumper. During LSU’s first half run that opened up the 13-point lead, Missouri played HORRIBLE D and gave up 25 points, on a lot of open 3’s. Missouri’s defense stepped up dramatically when Jabari Brown went to the bench. No surprise there. He is the worst defensive player out of all the regulars. After that, Missouri dominated, playing better D most of the other time, save for a quick 30-second stretch late where they hit 3 straight 3s to make a game of it.
- Speaking of those 3 3’s, LSU was just 1-9 in the second half before those.
- Is there a better team in the nation in the open court than Missouri? They are great to watch when they get out and run and are their best when they are in the open floor.
- AO was fantastic – double-double 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks – but did a great job defending Johnny O’Bryant in the paint, who scored a bunch of garbage points late to finish with a quiet 18.
- Keion Bell delivered the exclamation mark with a monster dunk with 1:10 remaining after a Flip steal.
- Bowers has put together consecutive double-doubles’s at home (20 points, 10 rebounds average) and has been money with the 10-15 foot jumper. So smooth.
- “That is the same team beat us,” Bowers said. “We came out with a sense of urgency and they followed with a run and we answered. We are playing well. You want to start hitting your stride around late February-early March, and I think we are.”
- Bowers was one of five Tigers in double-figures. Missouri is the only team nationally with six guys averaging double figures. It is what help makes Missouri what they are. It can be anybody on any night. For instance, Brown scored 23 on Thursday and had just four Saturday and it did not affect the team.
- Hickey scored 22 and freshman Charles Carmouche scored 21 (his fourth 20-point game in the last five games) for LSU.
It’s a big week for Missouri as they chase a double-bye (Top 4 seed) in the SEC Tournament in Nashville. First it’s the “3/5/13” rematch with Arkansas after the refs helped the Hogs steal one down in Fayetteville Feb. 16…oh yeah, its Suitcase Mike Anderson’s return to Mizzou. That will be followed by a trip to Tennessee, who is playing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday. For a better breakdown of the SEC standings Power Mizzou’s Gabe DeArmond breaks down the final week of the conference race:
1. Florida 13-3
2. Alabama 11-5
3. Kentucky 11-5
4. Mizzou 10-6
5. Ole Miss 10-6
6. Arkansas 9-7
7. Tennessee 9-7
8. Georgia 8-8
9. LSU 8-8
10. Vandy 7-9
11. Texas A&M 7-9
12. Mississippi State 3-13
13. Auburn 3-13
14. South Carolina 3-13
GAMES THIS WEEK:
Arkansas at Mizzou TUE
Bama at Ole Miss TUE
Vandy at Florida WED
Miss State at South Carolina WED
LSU at A&M WED
Tennessee at Auburn WED
Kentucky at Georgia THUR
Florida at Kentucky SAT
Ole Miss at LSU SAT
A&M at Arkansas SAT
Georgia at Alabama SAT
Mizzou at Tennessee SAT
Auburn at Miss State SAT
South Carolina at Vandy SAT
WHAT’S AT STAKE:
FLORIDA: I think Florida has already wrapped up the one seed. Even if they haven’t the Gators can do so with EITHER a win at home vs Vandy on Wednesday or a win at Kentucky on Saturday.
ALABAMA: Bama holds the tiebreaker over Kentucky. With wins at Ole Miss and home vs Georgia, the Tide goes 13-5, gets the 2 seed and MIGHT wrap up an NCAA Tournament bid. Worst case scenario for Bama is two losses, 11-7 record. The Tide would lose head to head tiebreaks with Mizzou, Tennessee and Ole Miss in that scenario (would also lose all three if they lose to Ole Miss and beat UGA).
KENTUCKY: The Cats, first and foremost, have to win two to assure themselves of an NCAA Tournament bid. Two wins would get them to 13-5 and would give them the two seed IF Bama loses a game this week. If both Kentucky and Bama go 2-0 this week, the Cats are the three seed.
MIZZOU: With two wins, Missouri assures itself of no worse than the four seed. If the Tigers beat Arkansas and Tennessee loses to Auburn, Mizzou wraps up a four seed before Saturday’s game if Bama wins at Ole Miss. If Ole Miss beats Bama and LSU and the Tide wins its final game and Kentucky wins at least one, Missouri would still have to win at UT to get to 12-6 and get a top four seed. Missouri loses the tiebreaker head to head with Kentucky and Arkansas but wins it versus Ole Miss and Alabama with the outcome of Saturday’s game determining the head to head tiebreaker with Tennessee. Mizzou gets the two seed if the Tigers win two, Alabama loses once and Kentucky loses twice. If Mizzou wins two, Bama loses one and Kentucky loses one, Missouri is the three seed (I think). If the Tigers lose to Tennessee and the Vols beat Auburn, Missouri probably misses out on the top four unless they get a TON of help (Need two of: Ole Miss beating Bama but losing at LSU, Kentucky losing twice, or Bama losing twice). Missouri owns the tiebreaker over LSU and UGA so the worst they could finish even by losing two would be the seven seed.
OLE MISS: The Rebs are in bad shape. First off, they’re not making the Tournament without playing on Sunday at least in Nashville. Second, they lose the tiebreaker to Mizzou and Kentucky. They need to win two this week and have Bama lose two to get a top four seed.
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks can make their season with a win over Mizzou on Tuesday. If they could win that and beat A&M at home, they would finish ahead of the Tigers in the SEC regardless of what Missouri does on Saturday. Arkansas owns the tiebreaker over the Vols, but loses it to Ole Miss and Kentucky and Alabama. The Razorbacks can get the four seed IF they win two this week and Ole Miss loses two. Other than that, they’re playing on Thursday in Nashville.
TENNESSEE: Tennessee really hurt itself with the loss at UGA. They HAVE to beat Auburn and Missouri to have ANY shot at a top four seed (and probably to make the tournament). If UT can sweep two this week, that means they’d finish ahead of Missouri in the league standings. They would win a tiebreaker over UK by virtue of their win over Florida, but that means the Vols have to win two AND Kentucky has to lose two. Same story against Bama. But they lose the tiebreaker to Ole Miss. The Vols ceiling is the three seed because the winner of Bama/Ole Miss will finish ahead of them in the standings. They COULD get to three if they win two, and Kentucky AND the loser of Bama/Ole Miss loses its other game. It’s not real likely, but it is possible. Regardless, if Tennessee loses either game this week, they’re playing on Thursday.
None of the rest of the games really matter other than who plays who on Thursday. Auburn, Miss State and SC are playing on Wednesday. The 11 seed will likely be A&M or Vandy, whichever has a worse week. If they end up tied, Vandy gets the 10 seed and waits till Thursday, A&M is the 11 and plays WED.