MU men's basketball motivated for California

Saturday, December 6, 2008 | 7:38 p.m. CST; updated 10:16 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2009
DeMarre Carroll plays defense on Nov. 30 against Oral Roberts. Carroll suffered a high-ankle sprain in a frustrating loss at California last season that bothered him the rest of the season. "I really don't even want to think about that game," Carroll said. "It was one of those nightmares."

COLUMBIA — Usually, it's good to learn from your mistakes. But for the Missouri men's basketball team this week, it has been better to just forget about them.

While preparing for Sunday's game against California at Mizzou Arena, the Missouri men's basketball team has tried not to think about last season's 86-72 loss at California.

It was a game full of bad memories. The Tigers blew a 13-point, second-half lead and forward DeMarre Carroll suffered a high-ankle sprain that haunted Missouri for the rest of the season.

"I really don't even want to think about that game," Carroll said. "It was one of those nightmares."

Playing with a big lead, Missouri completely fell apart against the Golden Bears. The Tigers shot 65 percent in the first half but just 33 percent in the second. California outrebounded Missouri 41-20.

Point guard Stefhon Hannah fouled out with 1:47 to play. Shortly after, Carroll left with the injury. He played with pain through the rest of the season.

"It was one of those injuries that kept nagging me and nagging me," Carroll said.

Carroll won the Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year Award after transferring to Missouri before last season, but the injury clearly affected his explosiveness around the basket. Missouri coach Mike Anderson said that Carroll's ability to play through the pain showed the forward's character.

Approaching Sunday's game, last season's loss was not a popular topic of conversation for Anderson and the Tigers.

"All I can talk about is this year and what can happen this year," junior guard J.T. Tiller said. "This year we have a very good team, and we are getting prepared to play them on Sunday. New team; new year."

California no longer has forwards DeVon Hardin and Ryan Anderson, who combined for 31 points and 23 rebounds against Missouri last season. And Missouri has seven new players.

Another change is that Carroll is healthy this season.

The difference is apparent. He is dunking, rebounding and running with ease. He leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding and is second in steals.

 "(Carroll) is playing very well. He's playing very tough, and I know he's ready to lead us in this game," Tiller said. "He's showing off his quickness this year."

Sunday's game is a chance for the Tigers to prove they really are improved from last season. California is Missouri's strongest home, nonconference opponent.

The Golden Bears come to Mizzou Arena 6-1 under the leadership of first-year coach Mike Montgomery, whose resume boasts 25 winning seasons in 26 years at the college level. Montgomery coached at Montana for eight seasons and Stanford for 18. He has won four Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards and four Pac-10 regular season titles.

 "They have a tremendous coach in coach Montgomery, someone I really admire and respect," Anderson said. "He's done a tremendous job in college basketball."

One key for the Tigers will be slowing down guard Jerome Randle, who is averaging 21 points per game and shooting 62 percent from the three-point line, the second best percentage in the the nation among players with at least 20 three-pointers.

"We've got to make (Randle) work," Anderson said. "He's a phenomenal player."

Sunday's game is part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, which is a group of 12 games between the two conferences. The Pac-10 won the series 7-5 last season. So far this year, the Big 12 has improved. On Thursday, No. 6 Oklahoma beat USC 73-72 and No. 8 Texas beat No. 12 UCLA 68-64.

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