The Mizzou Arena is an awesome place to catch a Missouri Tigers game at because they are so good at home, you’re nearly guaranteed a win. However, should you ever decide to travel to an away game and cheer for the Tigers, be ready to deal the insufferable opposing fans because the Tigers simply cannot win on the road.
Tuesday, February 19th, the Tigers (19-8, 8-6 SEC) took care of the number 5 ranked Florida Gators (22-4, 12-2 SEC) — at home of course — and looked dominate, impressive and powerful while doing it. Laurence Bowers (21) put up 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double in the win where Mizzou appeared to be a force that would certainly be a contender in March against any team across this nation. Saturday night, that myth was dispelled in Lexington at the Rupp Arena before a packed, standing room only house of 24,380, where ESPN’s College Gameday was stationed to cover the disappointing loss that dropped the Tigers to 6th place in the SEC.
The loss comes from a conference rival Kentucky team that earlier this month, suffered the devastating loss of their star players Nerlens Noel, a 6’10″ 228 lb freshman forward who was nothing short of one of the most gifted college players this year. Noel blew out his ACL while blocking a shot against, oddly enough, Florida on February 12th, and is now out for the year.
The Tigers couldn’t finish with just seconds left on the clock in the second half and Kentucky followed their lead by missing on a very long range 3 point attempt. Overtime was a different animal for the Wildcats as they seemed to find another gear the Tigers could not. Kentucky’s Julius Mays (34) scored 8 points for the Wildcats as they finished off the Tigers from the foul line 90-83. About the only good news for Missouri that came from this game was that Junior Guard Phil Pressey (1) played descent on the road for a while. He scored the Tiger’s only 8 points in overtime but it was not enough.
Missouri needed that win, and any other win they are able to scratch together on the road to make a solid argument for the NCAA tournament. Teams that can’t win on the road aren’t very appealing to those doing their homework for selection Sunday because…well, the entire tournament is played on the road. Missouri needs to quickly and aggressively address and correct their road issues or they can assure themselves of only one thing — that they will be watching from the stands in March instead of playing.
With only two more away contests on the schedule, the Tigers must put together serious, convincing wins over South Carolina this Thursday, February 28th, and then at Tennessee on Saturday, March 9th. For such a talented, exciting group of college players, it may be too little, too late. A team that was riding the bracket bubble going into last night, a Noel-less Kentucky may have been the pin that popped Missouri’s chances.