COLUMBIA — When the Missouri men’s basketball team plays Texas Tech tonight at 7, it will be out to reverse a couple of bad trends.
First off, the game is in Lubbock, Texas. That is a concern because the Tigers have yet to win a game on the road this season in four tries, and, dating back to last year, have lost six consecutive road games.
“I think on the road we seem to come out kind of lackadaisical to start and we kind of dig ourselves a hole and it seems like we’re kind of battling back and we’re battling and battling and we just run out of time,” guard Matt Lawrence said. “We need to come out with the energy that we do at home. We need to jump out on top and be the aggressor and I think we’ll be all right.”
When MU traveled to Ames, Iowa to play Iowa State on Jan. 16, the Cyclones began the game on a 13-2 run. The Tigers could never make up that early difference, eventually losing 72-67.
“On the road we seem to get away from what we normally do,” forward Leo Lyons said.
The second problem has surfaced more recently. In MU’s last two games against Kansas and Iowa State, opponents have shot 82 free throws. The Tigers lost both of those games, and with the Tigers going on the road, the fouling issue is something that MU coach Mike Anderson said needs to be fixed.
“One thing we can’t do, especially with going on the road, is we can’t afford to put teams on the line,” Anderson said. “That’s what has taken place in the last few ball games, people getting to the line too much on us.”
The fouls might be a result of MU’s pressure defense, but also are a result of some sloppy efforts on the defensive end of late. After all, the Tigers have been playing the same defense all year and not giving up nearly as many foul shots as they have the last two games.
“We gamble a lot,” Lyons said. “We play pressure defense. So when people make moves, we’re getting little touch fouls right now.”
Lawrence said that the team has been picking up a lot of frustration fouls during the last couple of games, like a player getting whistled for reaching to get the ball back after a missed shot.
“We’ve been getting ticky-tack fouls and putting them (the other team) in the one-and-one real early, with like ten minutes left in the first half,” Lawrence said. “So hopefully we can play solid, lock-down defense. I’m not going to say we’re not going to foul because we’re a very aggressive team on defense.”
This fouling issue has been compounded by MU struggling to get to the free throw line itself. In the last two games, MU attempted 37 free throws, a stat that Anderson hopes will change.
“We’re an attacking team, I expect us to get to the line as well,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of mind-boggling from that standpoint and, at the same time, you just got to make the adjustments. Some of those calls we didn’t get, maybe they’ll start going our way.”
Lyons said that MU has had a tendency to fall in love with the jump shot lately, and the Tigers need to continue to have the mentality of attacking the basket in order to alter the recent free throw differences.
As bad as the free throw difference has been the last two games, Anderson said it can be corrected if the Tigers pay attention to what kind of fouls the officials are calling.
“I think you got to make the adjustment as the game is being called, more than anything else,” Anderson said. “Good teams make the adjustments and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll make the adjustments.”