COLUMBIA — Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith is trying to improve a few things during the week-long break from games to prepare the Tigers for some tough opponents.
Haith said Monday he planned to use all 20 hours, the NCAA maximum of practice per week, to work with players on skill development.
The coach said he wants to see guard Earnest Ross get out of his shooting slump. Ross shot 0-for-7 from the field in the past two games and scored only three points on free throws. Haith said he thinks Ross has been putting too much thought into his shooting and wants his instincts to take over.
"He's a valuable guy," Haith said. "So we need him to get better in that regard."
Haith said he hoped to fix the slump by watching tape with Ross and trying to get his confidence up.
"When you're open, it's simple; you shoot it," Haith said Monday about how Ross should approach shooting. "When you're not, you don't."
Ross has shot inconsistently so far this season, making only 37.8 percent of his shots. Haith said in the past that Ross needed to make sure he is positioned to take a shot with both his feet under him instead of attempting to make acrobatic shots.
Junior Phil Pressey is also working on improving this week. Haith said he wants to see more aggressiveness from the point guard.
Missouri benefits when Pressey drives to the basket with the ball. In the Tigers' game against Southeast Missouri State, Pressey started shooting 3-for-14. Pressey didn't make many field goals in the second half either but made eight free throws and ended up with 17 points.
"I don't think we're good in transition as we need to be," Haith said. "That has to do with Phil being assertive.
"When we're rebounding as much as we're rebounding, we've got to be playing transition a lot more, and we're not. And that's who we are, and that'll help our shooting when playing in transition."
After hosting South Carolina State on Monday, Missouri will be facing tough nonconference challenges. The Tigers travel to St. Louis on Dec. 22 to play No. 10 Illinois.
Illinois is 11-0 and is led by senior guard Brandon Paul, who averages 19 points per game.
The Tigers then fly to Los Angeles on Dec. 28 to play 6-3 UCLA. Missouri returns home Jan. 5 to play Bucknell and then starts conference play against Alabama on Jan. 8.
Haith said he isn't too worried. Missouri is 8-1, third in the country in rebounds and is only allowing opponents to make 36.7 percent of their shots.
"I think we just ought to get better like everyone else in the country," Haith said. "We're just practicing trying to get better, and those guys will get better."