Missouri men's basketball falters at Ole Miss

Saturday, January 12, 2013 | 9:16 p.m. CST; updated 4:43 p.m. CST, Sunday, January 13, 2013
Missouri's Keion Bell struggles to keep the ball from Mississippi's Murphy Holloway in Saturday's game at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Miss.

OXFORD, Miss. — A speck here, a speck there. Sure, there were gold shirts in the crowd, but you couldn’t hear them.

One crossed his arms. Another supported his head in his hands. One hadn’t moved from his slouched position for at least 10 minutes. Another left.

The No. 10-ranked Missouri men's basketball team had completely fallen apart against unranked Mississippi, and all a gold-shirted fan could do was watch — a clear minority in the hostile Oxford, Miss., environment.

Off-balanced shooting. Too many missed threes. Missed layups. Sloppy passes. Timid play. Final score 64-49 Ole Miss.

Coach Frank Haith was sitting, five minutes before the final buzzer. Normally he paces, he squats, he yells. Now all he could do was sit. He shrugged his shoulders, his team behind by 20 at the time. He said something to the referee, who walked right on past. Ignored, all he could do was watch.

The Tigers finished 36.8 percent shooting, 11.1 percent from 3-point range, 19 turnovers and six free-throw attempts.

Laurence Bowers sat farther along the bench wearing a sweater. Missouri’s leading scorer was silent and injured with a sprained MCL in his right knee. In the brief moments that his team had a good play, he did what he could do to contribute.

He stood, he applauded, he limped.

The team captain ran his hand through his hair with seconds remaining. He hadn’t stood for a while. All he could do was watch, just like his family and friends, who had come from his hometown of Memphis.

Missouri (12-3) lost their first road game in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday.

A sullen Haith walked into the media room, his head pinned down. Reporters asked their questions, typing, tweeting, videotaping, watching, a frustrated coach trying his best to explain what he saw. 

“Well, obviously, Ole Miss played great,” Haith said. “I thought they were much tougher than us. They played with much more energy. Their fans were great, and I thought that we really didn’t do things we’ve done all year. We didn’t attack. They were way more aggressive than we were, and it showed on the scoreboard.

“We were looking for someone to bail us out as opposed to going and making plays.”

Missouri’s starting five combined for 15 turnovers. Phil Pressey shot 5-for-11 in the game, 0-for-4 from three. Earnest Ross, who started in place of the injured Bowers, shot 1-of-7. Alex Oriakhi only shot four times.

They play again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home against Georgia. 

“If we execute like that, it’s going to be a long season,” Pressey said. “The way we played, with or without him (Bowers), if we play like that, it’s going to be tough to win. That was our worst two halves of basketball all year.”

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