The elbow landed hard on Laurence Bowers’ chin. He turned, took one step, and slumped to the floor. Not long after, he walked wobbly-kneed to the locker room. He would not return to the game, but his teammates continued to take the Texas punishment.
The Missouri men’s basketball team was outmuscled in its 71-58 loss at Texas on Saturday, largely because of the No. 7 Longhorns' ability to grab more rebounds than No. 11 Missouri's quickly-depleted frontcourt.
Missouri was pushed around early and Texas jumped out to an 11-point lead to start the game. Texas forward Tristan Thompson made the 11th point on a free throw, the result of Ricardo Ratliffe’s second foul. Thompson and his teammate Jordan Hamilton proved victorious over Missouri’s big men as they corralled and secured rebounds, each grabbing 13 boards by the end of the night.
“The game was won in the paint. The rebounding that took place early on. In the second half, they were getting lots of offensive rebounds off the free-throw line. We were in position of getting those rebounds, so to me, that’s lack of toughness,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said in his postgame radio conference.
Besides grabbing rebounds, Thompson also took out a key part of Missouri’s big game. Kim English eventually broke the scoring drought with a long 3-pointer from the corner, but the Tigers trailed 16-10 when Laurence Bowers set up for a rebound. Thompson soared over him, grabbing the ball. As gravity ensued, Thompson returned to the court, his right elbow grazing down Bowers' cheek before it caught soundly on his chin.
"It wasn't intentional or anything. He (Thompson) was just trying to make a play on the ball and kind of came down on top of Laurence's head," Missouri forward Justin Safford said.
Sprawled on the ground, Bowers eventually stood and made his way to the Missouri bench with the help of a trainer. His eyes appeared heavy as he was examined. Then, he was led into a tunnel of Frank Erwin Special Events Center. His reactions showed signs of a concussion.
"I'm not really sure what the diagnosis is. I'm assuming that's what it was," Safford said.
Without Bowers, the Tigers never seemed to hit their stride.
“You lose a guy like Bowers, and I won’t ever use anything as an excuse, but Bowers was playing extremely well, and he’s one of the better forwards on our basketball team,” Anderson said.
With Bowers out and Ratliffe in foul trouble early, Texas’s 10-point lead seemed to remain almost constant throughout the rest of the game. When Missouri began to chink away at the wall, a Texas rebound would lead to a second chance, and the lead would return.
“We kept trying to climb and climb, and we just couldn’t get over the hump. Give Texas credit. Every time we made a run, we would cut it to seven, and they scored,” Anderson said.
The Longhorns’ inability to hit free throws kept Missouri in the game. Texas was only 16-of-34 from the line.
"We noticed that. That's something we talked about, but we could never really get over that hump," Safford said.
While Texas had trouble making free throws, Missouri had trouble doing everything else.
Phil Pressey scored 12 points off the bench and English was the only Missouri starter to reach double digits (10 points) while Texas had three players in the category. The Longhorns shot better than 50 percent compared to Missouri’s 34.
In the final minute of the game, Texas forward Gary Johnson hit the floor after a loose ball. He slid into a line of Longhorn cheerleaders. He smiled and laughed, knowing his team would soon be 6-0 in the Big 12.
Missouri players paced the court, wanting the remaining seconds to hurry off the clock. They were going to fall to 3-3 in the Big 12, and their three-game winning streak against Texas was over. Even worse, the team has yet to find a way to win a conference game on the road.