Missouri men's basketball team faces more physical challenges ahead

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | 8:24 p.m. CST
Missouri junior guard Earnest Ross goes up for a shot against Alabama. Ross, a transfer from Auburn, says play in the Southeastern Conference can get rough at times. "The refs will let you play a lot more physical and not call a lot more fouls," he said.

COLUMBIA — Missouri guard Earnest Ross knows a thing or two about playing Southeastern Conference men's basketball. He transferred in from Auburn last year.

Ross described the SEC as an athletic league filled with physical plays.

"There are crazy environments in the SEC," Ross said Monday. "The refs will let you play a lot more physical and not call a lot more fouls."

Missouri coach Frank Haith, who coached against SEC teams during his time at Miami, said his impression of the conference is that it is more aggressive than the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12.

"I think this league is more of an athletic, uptempo pressing ...," Haith said.

Tuesday's game against Alabama was not one of the most physical basketball games, but there were some flashes of Ross's descriptions.

Alabama ran a four-guard lineup, but Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi and Alabama forward Nick Jacobs pushed off each other violently for position in the paint all night long.

On one play late in the first half, Oriakhi and Alabama guard Trevor Releford got tangled, and Releford fell to the floor without a call. The play led to a quick talk between Releford and the referee about the non-call.

Expect to see more physical plays Saturday night when Missouri plays Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.

The Rebels feature a tough front court anchored by forwards Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. Holloway averages 10.9 rebounds and Buckner 7.1. Ole Miss is 20th in the nation with 41.2 rebounds a game.

Holloway also scores an average of 18.2 points per game. The Rebels are fifth in the nation, scoring 83.1 points per game.

"It's a great team and a great environment," Ross said about playing in Oxford. "They're a hungry and a scrappy team, so we'll have to be on our p's and q's and ready to play."

To compound the challenges for Missouri, Laurence Bowers is out for at least two games with an MCL sprain, which means a bigger role for Oriakhi, forwards Stefan Jankovic and Andy Rossburg against the Ole Miss big men.

Bowers missed all of the 2011-12 season with an ACL tear.

Haith will address the media Thursday afternoon about the upcoming game and possibly what he will do with the Tigers' lineup against the Rebels on Saturday.

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