COLUMBIA — Teams visiting Mizzou Arena haven’t had much say in what type of game they play against Missouri’s men’s basketball team this season.
At home, where Missouri is 4-0, the Tigers play the style coach Mike Anderson has built his career on. They irritate teams with in-your-face defense, and they run, forcing the opposition to keep up.
Fairleigh-Dickinson (1-9) vs. Missouri (5-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
TV: KOMU/Channel 8
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
Take the Tigers out of Mizzou Arena and they get lulled into a slow, methodical tempo that goes against everything Anderson stands for.
“Right now, we’re kind of at a snail’s pace, especially on the road,” Anderson said Thursday after his team’s frustrating 60-59 loss at Oral Roberts on Wednesday. “It’s amazing. At home we’re totally different.”
It’s not that Missouri completely forgets how to play at its optimal pace on the road. The Tigers just have lapses of memory.
“At times I thought the game was going in our direction,” Anderson said. “We disrupted what they wanted to do, and it gave us kind of a rhythm, an even flow in the offense. But we didn’t do it enough.”
Missouri is 0-2 on the road and 1-1 on neutral courts, and it seems infinitely more difficult for the Tigers to control the flow of the game off their homecourt.
“I think it’s just a mental thing,” senior J.T. Tiller said. “We just come out and we get caught up in their kind of game.”
Missouri’s pressure and pace run on energy, and Tiller said playing on the road forces the Tigers to self-generate the energy they normally get from their home crowd.
Missouri’s energy, like its optimal tempo, wasn’t entirely absent Wednesday. But it went away before the Tigers, who led by 10 with less than six minutes left, could put Oral Roberts away.
“There’s windows of opportunity that you’ve got to take advantage of.” Anderson said. “We went up 10, and we had the guys who started the game rested, they came in. And so you want them to come in with the energy to create the tempo that had already been established, and we didn’t do that. So in essence, they just hung around.”
The Tigers could have shut the door by hitting free throws down the stretch. They missed two of the three they took in the game, an indicator in itself that the Tigers let their energy and aggressiveness escape them.
“I didn’t think we forced our will on them,” Anderson said.
Missouri has to wait more than a month for its next chance to control the tempo and win a road game. Outside of their annual neutral-court game against Illinois in St. Louis on Dec. 23, the Tigers don't play away from Mizzou Arena until Jan. 13, the second game of the Big 12 season at Texas Tech.
Missouri plays Fairleigh-Dickinson on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.