COLUMBIA — Matt Lawrence's career at Missouri has been full of highs and lows.
When he committed to Missouri, he wasn't promised a scholarship. Lawrence had received scholarship offers from other schools, but he decided to stay in his home state.
His decision to come to Missouri paid off quickly. He was offered a scholarship, and by his sophomore season, Lawrence was a starter.
But the senior's time at Missouri has also been full of challenges. After his freshman year, Missouri went through a coaching change, with Mike Anderson taking over the program.
The Tigers have struggled on the court, going 18-30 in the Big 12 Conference during Lawrence's first three seasons. Individually, Lawrence saw his shooting percentage drop 11.6 percent between his sophomore and junior years.
This season Lawrence's shooting has improved slightly, but he is also playing about seven less minutes per game. Lawrence isn't bothered by the decreased action. He is just happy the Tigers are finally winning.
"If I play two minutes and we win, that's all that matters," Lawrence said. "I've had some ups and downs definitely throughout my career here in college, and I'm to the point where right now I don't care about anything but wins."
At the end of Saturday's game against Murray State, Lawrence sat out the decisive final minutes. Anderson replaced Lawrence with freshman Kim English for defensive purposes. The move paid off, and Missouri forced six turnovers in the final four minutes.
The Tigers are currently 8-1, and they haven't had any issues away from the court. Keeping the focus on basketball is a welcome change for Lawrence, after arrests, suspensions, and ultimately the dismissal of point guard Stefhon Hannah tarnished last season.
"It's very refreshing, not only with the wins but also the way that we interact with each other off the court and in the locker room," Lawrence said. "It's a lot more positive. It's a lot more fun to be here coming to practice and working hard with these guys."
Lawrence, who passed Thomas Gardner for seventh in Tigers' history in three-point baskets against Murray State, has been trying to expand his skills to be more than just a perimeter shooter.
"I don't want the only reason I'm out on the floor to be because I'm making three-point shots," Lawrence said. "I want it to be because I'm distributing the ball well, or I'm rebounding or getting steals."
Anderson said playing better defense would help Lawrence become a complete player and earn more minutes.
NO DUNKS: One thing Lawrence hasn't done during his career at Missouri is dunk in a game.
He has had a couple of chances this season, but laid the ball in each time. Giving Lawrence a hard time for not dunking is one of his teammates' favorite activities.
After Lawrence laid the ball in on a breakaway during the Murray State game, senior forward Leo Lyons admonished him for not dunking.
"If we watch film on this (Murray State) game, I know right when they see that play they are going to all look at me and get mad," Lawrence said. "I think it's kind of funny, though, that they get so mad about it."
Lawrence said he enjoys frustrating his teammates with layups. He has dunked several times in practices, but his teammates accuse him of being nervous in games.
"There's just something about the crowd that makes his knees wiggle," Lyons said.
Lawrence said he is planning to dunk once before he graduates, but wants to let the anticipation build.
FINALS TESTING TIGERS: Missouri doesn't schedule games during finals week to allow players to focus on their studies.
The Murray State game was the Tigers' only contest between their Dec. 7 win over California and this Saturday's game with Stetson.
Missouri has had to move its practice and weightlifting times to allow players to study. For the Tigers' five freshmen, it is their first time trying to balance college classes with playing basketball.
Anderson said he is concerned that his team might be a little rusty.
"We're coming off of finals, and (Stetson) plays a game before they come here, so they'll probably be in a little bit more of a rhythm than we would be," Anderson said.
TURNOVER TROUBLE: Missouri came away with a win against Murray State, but the Tigers turned the ball over 19 times in that game.
The team is determined to cut down on the sloppy offense and take better care of the ball.
"We were very sloppy," Lyons said. "(Anderson) wants us to play fast but not too fast. Sometimes we try to get a little too fast and make a lot of turnovers."