COLUMBIA — Sure, it was a tough environment, the referees missed calls, and Laurence Bowers couldn’t play.
They were all factors but all excuses.
The Missouri men's basketball team's 64-49 loss Saturday against unranked Ole Miss was, simply put, a bad game.
The Tigers shot only 36.8 percent, and were 2-for-18 from behind the arc. They went to the free-throw line only six times, had 19 turnovers, and struggled to sustain any kind of offensive rhythm in the game.
And now they are learning from it.
“I think we just let the whole environment get to us,” forward Alex Oriakhi said. “The road is no joke. That was one of those games where you really see where our heart was at, and we failed.”
Oriakhi played 23 minutes in the game, the least amount of time among the five starters. He finished with four points and six rebounds, down from his averages of 10.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He got into foul trouble early in the first half, frustrating the 6-foot-9, 255-pound senior.
“I feel like the refs are always looking at me, every little thing I do,” Oriakhi said. “So, I definitely still want to be physical out there, but I think it’s just a matter of me being a little smarter as far as how physical I am and not getting into foul trouble. Because I’m definitely trying to be on the floor as long as possible.”
Missouri needs Oriakhi to be on the court. The Tigers will be without Bowers, their leading scorer, for at least one more game.
“He’s got to be that guy,” coach Frank Haith said. “Without Laurence, he’s got to be the guy that we got to get more production out of on a consistent basis, particularly in the paint.”
Phil Pressey struggled in the game, turning the ball over five times and shooting 5-for-11. Jabari Brown shot 4-for-13, and Earnest Ross 1-for-7.
But those are just the numbers.
The biggest factor in Saturday’s loss was Missouri’s lack of toughness. Following the game, coach Haith described his team’s play as timid. Off-balanced shooting, missed layups, sloppy passes, and fade away shots subsequently led to a situation that was clearly difficult for Missouri players to cope with.
Haith said he would like to see a better balance between his team’s toughness and emotion.
“I think emotions and toughness, they’re two different things,” Haith said Monday. “I want emotion. I want passion. I want energy. I want all of those things. But that to me isn’t toughness. Toughness is a lot of things. Toughness is helping your teammate every single time in rotation. That’s toughness. When there’s a 50/50 ball, you’re laying out for that ball. That’s toughness. When I tell you we’ve got to get that ball moving from side to side, you don’t go out there and shoot it out on the front side. That’s toughness.
“Because you don’t let the environment make you do something you’re not supposed to. That’s how I define toughness."
During any season, a team is bound to have its bad games, and Missouri certainly had one on Saturday.
The No. 17-ranked Tigers (12-3, 1-1 SEC) will have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, playing Georgia (6-9, 0-2) at home on Wednesday, and then will have yet another tough road match against No. 10-ranked Florida (12-2, 2-0 in SEC) on Saturday.
“I’m not going to let that loss linger in any way, because I know it’s a long season. I never really look at things as a loss, I look at it as a lesson,” Oriakhi said.
“You’ve got to have a bad memory. You’ve got to move on.”