COLUMBIA – A peculiar case of senioritis has affected the Missouri men’s basketball team.
This one hasn’t produced the typical symptoms of declining effort and an indifferent attitude. But all three of the Tigers’ seniors have encountered physical ailments in the past week.
Although his is the only case that doesn’t involve a broken or sprained bone, guard Zaire Taylor’s is the most startling. Taylor has had stomach problems for the past week, and he threw up in the stands after Missouri’s 65-56 win against Iowa State on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena. It wasn’t surprising considering how weak he appeared as he slouched to the ground between two rows of seats and then bent over the handrail before he could make it back down to the court.
Minutes earlier, as Taylor walked gingerly out of the locker room with his upper body hunched forward and a painful grimace on his face, he struggled with his words trying to explain what’s been bugging him.
“I’ve been having problems with my stomach,” was about as much as Taylor could say.
Teammate Laurence Bowers said Taylor has been having stomach issues for several days.
“For like the last week, he’s been having to leave practice saying his stomach’s been killing him,” Bowers said. “He’s fighting through it.”
Bowers didn’t know whether Taylor has visited a doctor, but said Taylor has been going to the bathroom frequently. Coach Mike Anderson said Taylor left the bench during the game to use the bathroom.
“He just took off, said ‘I’m going. I got to go to the restroom coach.’ So I said, ‘Go,’” Anderson said, drawing several laughs.
There was nothing funny about how sick Taylor looked after the game, though. He looked so ill it was difficult to fathom that he played 22 minutes and had six rebounds.
“Shows you how tough he is,” Bowers said. “He didn’t want us to lose that game. You admire guys like that. He could have easily just sat on the bench.”
That’s where senior forward Keith Ramsey spent all but two minutes of the second half. Ramsey injured his ankle in the first half and limped off the floor. As Missouri struggled to hang onto a small lead with six minutes left in the game, Ramsey made his first appearance since the injury. He moved cautiously and hobbled off the floor two minutes later.
“It’s just a regular sprain, but it was so fresh that it was hard to play on,” Bowers said. “He’s going to be OK. I think he’ll be ready for Baylor (on Saturday). I didn’t expect him to go back in the game, but that just shows you his mentality.”
Ramsey was unavailable after the game because he was receiving treatment.
Senior guard J.T. Tiller played with a broken nose that he suffered in Missouri’s game Saturday at Colorado. The nose was swollen and bent to the right before Tiller got it straightened out Tuesday. He began the game wearing a protective mask but quickly took it off.
“It had that little bar and it gave me double vision and it was so uncomfortable, so I just took it off,” Tiller said.
Tiller was the only senior whose game was completely unaffected by his ailment. He scored a season-high 17 points and bailed out the Tigers, who played lethargically all game and let Iowa State, which had just eight available scholarship players, hang around until the final two minutes.
It’s unknown whether Ramsey will be able to play through his ankle injury and whether Taylor’s stomach problems will go away. But in just a week, Missouri has seen its three most proven players fighting illness or injury as the team heads down the stretch of the conference season.