Missouri's young basketball team is breaking new ground.
The Tigers' 83-76 win at Georgia on Saturday afternoon snapped an eight-game nonconference road losing streak that extended back to Dec. 6, 2003, when the Tigers won at Indiana, 63-58.
This season, Missouri has a neutral win against Southern California and a big home win against California, but Zaire Taylor said the victory against the Bulldogs could be the most important one so far.
“I would say this is our biggest win as far as going to a hostile atmosphere,” Taylor said. “I feel the home team is believed to have an advantage and we came out on the road and we got the win.”
The win in Athens, Ga. doesn’t just end the road losing streak, but also gives the 12-2 Tigers their best start since the 1998-99 team that had the same record. The Bulldogs are predicted to finish last in the SEC West, and the young team committed 23 turnovers. But Missouri has lost against weak opponents on the road before during the streak, including losses at Davidson in 2005 and Houston in 2004.
In the second half, it was the newcomers who helped the Tigers pull away. Junior college transfer Keith Ramsey had two blocks to spark a 14-4 run, and Taylor scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the final nine minutes.
“If I had a game ball, it would go to Keith Ramsey,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said in a radio interview after the game. “The energy that guy played with, the hustle, it’s amazing how guys can have the impact on games, and it ain’t about the stat line.”
Freshman Kim English scored eight of 17 bench points for the Tigers. It was a marked improvement from the game against Illinois, when the Missouri reserves scored 11 points on 21 percent shooting from the field.
“I think it’s very important to get those guys minutes on the road in a game like this,” Anderson said.
Even though most of the sparse-looking crowd were supporting the Bulldogs, there were a fair amount of Tiger supporters in the audience. Many were supporting Missouri's Georgia native J.T. Tiller, who finished with 10 points. During Taylor’s final two free throws, an M-I-Z Z-O-U chant could clearly be heard in Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum.
The Tigers will return to Mizzou Arena on Tuesday to face Coppin State in their final game before Big 12 Conference play begins next Saturday at Nebraska.