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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Game Notes: Tigers 84, Alabama 68

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 6:39 PM

So there's the good news, and the bad news. 

Actually, there's the good news, the bad news, and the worse-but-we-don't-know-exactly-how-bad-yet news. 

Starting from the worst: Laurence Bowers' knee injury, which doesn't appear to be serious, but could very well complicate things for a Missouri team which was just starting to really come together this season. I'll take a little longer look at what an extended absence for Bowers could mean a little later. 

Now that that bit of unpleasantness is out of the way, let's get to the regular bad news, okay? Oh, and the good stuff, too. 

The bad news is this: the Mizzou defense had absolutely no answer for Trevor Releford, who put up a career-high 26 points against the Tigers last night. I wrote yesterday Releford presented a dynamic challenge for Missouri to try and slow down, and for once I actually look like I have some kind of basic understanding of sports. I have to admit, it's sort of nice. Weird, but nice. 

Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or whatever the sporty equivalent of a rocket scientist is), to see how talented Releford is. The kid has some pretty remarkable skills. All the same, one would have liked to see the Mizzou defense show a bit better and put the clamps on the kid when he was the only real threat the Crimson Tide had on the floor for the most part. Instead, Releford simply had his way with the Tigers, scoring pretty much at will. It was more than a little worrisome. 

At this point you're probably looking at that headline and trying to figure out if there's some sort of mistake. After all, the score appears to show Missouri scoring a big win, a 16 point win no less, in their first-ever SEC game, and all I've done so far is talk about an injury and how the Mizzou defense couldn't stop the Kansas City Kid from going off for 26. 

Well, let me put your mind at ease: that score is correct. Missouri did, in fact, win, and win big, and overall it was a good night in Columbia. Phil Pressey was awful early on but rebounded to put together a big game. Jabari Brown, coming off a terrible night shooting against Bucknell, shot the lights out of the building in scoring a team high 22. The Tigers as a team had 18 assists to Alabama's 8, proof positive Missouri was moving the ball effectively while the Tide were essentially relying on Trevor Releford to do it pretty much on his own. 

Here's the thing, though: while there was certainly plenty to like about the final result for Missouri, I'm honestly not overly impressed with the way they played. They won the rebound battle, but only by a bare margin of 27-25. They couldn't stop Alabama's best player from putting points on the board despite limiting the rest of the team's involvement in the offense. I won't fault Pressey for the shaky ball-handling in the first half so much; those kinds of things just happen sometimes, and I would rather see him gamble to make a play than limit the risks he takes and bog down the flow of the offense. 

I will also say this for the Tigers last night: they did seem to figure something out against Releford in the second half. He was unstoppable early, but went quiet after the break, as Mizzou finally put the screws to him. I'm just hoping in the future it doesn't take so long for the adjustment to be made. Against a team with more talent and a better pedigree -- I'm sorry to say it so bluntly, but this Alabama team just isn't very good -- I worry about how things would have gone were the Tigers so slow to figure out a gameplan. 

Overall, chalk it up as a learning experience. This team is good enough, talented enough, to beat up a lot of the competition fairly handily despite not playing their best ball. But make no mistake: last night's game was not an all-time classic for the Tigers. They won't be putting this one in the highlight package anytime soon. Take the W, take the margin of victory, and move forward, trying to fix what needs to be fixed. 

And hope to god Bowers isn't out any longer than necessary. 

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