Young Tiger guards struggling away from home

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 | 10:54 p.m. CST; updated 12:02 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 29, 2009
Missouri's J.T. Tiller attempts to shoot over Kansas State forward Ron Anderson on Wednesday in Manhattan, Kan.

MANHATTAN — Missouri’s three freshmen guards still have a lot to learn about playing away from home.

Miguel Paul, Kim English and Marcus Denmon continued their struggles outside of Mizzou Arena in Wednesday night’s 88–72 loss at Kansas State’s Bramlage Coliseum. This time, the starting guards couldn't save them. J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor both committed four turnovers in the Missouri men's basketball team's first loss since the conference opener at Nebraska.

"I was really disappointed with our guard play and from a defensive standpoint," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said

A loud and full student section, one of the few in the Big 12 located on the side of the court rather than behind the basket, made it difficult for the Tigers to communicate on offense all night. The loss dropped Missouri’s record away from home to 4-4 this season.

"I think I need to help my guys prepare a little bit better," said senior Matt Lawrence, who has seen Missouri lose all four times he has played at Kansas State. "I don't think they were ready for this. This was a more hostile environment than Georgia or Nebraska, so you've got to get ready for something like this."

Lawrence led the Tigers with 17 points, but the other five guards combined for 19 points and 11 turnovers. The three freshman guards scored just nine points in 37 total minutes.

The dropoff in productivity away from home has been notable for the three freshmen guards. In eight games on road and neutral courts, all three are shooting at least 12 percent lower from the field than their season percentages.

Denmon and English are averaging about four points per game outside of Mizzou Arena, while their season averages are hovering around seven. Paul has scored less than two points in road and neutral games, compared to an average of more than four points per game at home. All 14 times one of the trio has scored in double figures have come in Columbia.

"Experience. That's the key," Anderson said. "They'll have opportunities to do it. We've got more road games."

Denmon’s struggles have been the most costly for the Tigers. He missed key three-pointers down the stretch in close losses to Xavier and Nebraska, and his intentional foul against Oklahoma State almost led to an improbable comeback in Missouri's 97-95 win at Stillwater.

Life on the road won’t get any easier for the Tigers. After a home game against Baylor on Saturday, Missouri travels to face Texas and Iowa State. With the exception of Kansas, those two teams draw the largest crowds in the Big 12.

Missouri’s three senior leaders, DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence combined for 49 of Missouri's 72 points in Manhattan. But they know they're going to need more help from the Denmon, English and Paul to be successful in a Big 12 road environment.

"They've got to just go out there and play with confidence," Lawrence said. "It's got to be something from the tip that they have. Hopefully, us as seniors will prepare them better for that, what it's like to play in these places on the road."

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