COLUMBIA — A major weakness of the Missouri men's basketball team was well exposed in Wednesday’s 89-83 loss at Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt’s front line bossed the Tigers around on the boards, outrebounding Missouri 47-26. A.J. Ogilvy, a 6-foot-11 center, tipped in a handful of missed shots on his way to a game-high 25 points. Ogilvy only grabbed six rebounds himself, but the Tigers had trouble boxing out 6-7 forwards Jeffery Taylor and Andrew Walker, who combined for 23 rebounds.
Oregon (4-2) at Missouri (4-2)
WHEN: 4 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
“It seemed like wasn’t nobody in there getting dirty,” said forward Keith Ramsey, who led the Tigers with seven rebounds.
Missouri, which lost consecutive games for the first time since the 2007-08 season to drop to 4-2, has been outrebounded in three of its six games. And two of the teams the Tigers have beaten on the boards are Tennessee-Martin and Texas El-Paso, hardly juggernauts.
On Wednesday, Missouri held Vanderbilt to nine fewer field goal attempts and forced 24 turnovers. But Vanderbilt turned 15 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points.
“We played good defense. We didn’t finish it off,” Ramsey said. “That’s what hurt us so bad. We played good defense and they’d miss a shot, the ball would get tipped up in the air or they’d come up with a rebound. Just that aggressive urge. They wanted the ball.”
Ramsey said the urge was there at times but not when the Tigers needed it. After Missouri went on a 10-1 run and pulled within two with 3:29 left, Walker tipped in a missed 3-pointer to push Vanderbilt’s lead back to four.
The Tigers, who play Oregon on Saturday at Mizzou Arena, know they have issues with rebounding. The question is, how do they fix them?
“We’ve just got to come out and hit somebody in the mouth next time, be more physical,” Ramsey said.
Missouri’s front line of Ramsey, Laurence Bowers and Justin Safford is considered undersized. None of them are taller than 6-9.
“Me, Justin and Laurence, we’re big guys, we just ain’t the real, real big guys,” Ramsey said. “We’re considered small, so we just gotta do all the small things to get more rebounds. Hitting somebody, getting in position, things like that.”
They could use a little help, too. Coach Mike Anderson has stressed the importance of his guards grabbing rebounds. Kim English led the guards with five rebounds against Vanderbilt.
“Coach has made a concerted effort to let us know that we’re not the best rebounding team, but we’re gonna have to send five guys to the glass every single time when they shoot the ball,” he said.
Missouri prides itself on fast breaks, but Ramsey and English both said the Tigers’ guards have been too quick to break down the court when opposing teams put up shots.
“I think the guards sometimes try to get to a hurry on the break, so they don’t help us rebound,” Ramsey said. “Most of the time, it’s two on four, three on four, because a lot of people send rebounders to the boards on us.”
Ramsey said the Tigers also struggled to rebound last season, but getting a head start down the floor didn’t hurt Missouri as much.
“Last year when I came in, I had DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, and they got everything,” English said. “So when the shot got off, I was gone ready to go. But this year we have smaller guys.”
Carroll and Lyons weren’t taller than Missouri’s current big men, but they learned how to stake out their space under the boards, something Ramsey and others will have to get better at.
“It could be an issue,” Ramsey said. “But the way we play, we have too much pride to let things go on like that. I think, come Saturday (against Oregon), it’s going to be a different story, us rebounding, because that’s our key focus of the game. Rebounding and toughness.”