COLUMBIA — Denied. Left hanging. Whatever you want to call it.
Alex Oriakhi reached his hand out toward the referee for a high-five, and was completely ignored.
“I was telling him (the referee) to watch out for the fouls, and I got the rebound, and the dude (Oriakhi's defender) smacked me right in the arm,” Oriakhi said, smiling. “So I looked at the ref, and he had to call it. It was just a little funny moment.”
Oriakhi’s playful demeanor was one of the many changes he made in Wednesday night’s 79-62 win over Georgia.
Unlike in Missouri’s 64-49 loss against Ole Miss on Saturday, where Oriakhi had only four points, six rebounds, and got into foul trouble early, the Missouri forward anchored the Tigers' offense Wednesday night.
He made hook shots, fade-aways, and put-backs. He looked more like himself, an offensive and defensive threat.
Oriakhi finished the game with 13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, and two assists.
“I knew it was a game where I had to demand for the ball and post up strong,” Oriakhi said. “That’s something I’m continuously working on, and I knew I had the advantage inside, and my teammates did a great job of finding me. When they missed shots, I tried to do my best to clean it up on the offensive glass.”
But it wasn’t just his offensive and defensive performance that shined in the game. It was his demeanor.
On Monday, Oriakhi said that he needed to work on channeling his emotions into positive results.
Wednesday, it worked.
“Alex had a great look about himself tonight,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “We had some sit-down talks with Alex about his emotions (this past week), and how to handle himself.”
In the three Missouri losses this season, Oriakhi has averaged eight points and seven rebounds, compared with his 10.9 points and nine rebounds in the 13 wins.
His performance against Georgia is something that the Tigers desperately need going forward. Leading scorer Laurence Bowers might miss yet another game with a sprained MCL in his right knee, the next being Saturday’s match-up at No. 10-ranked Florida.
“Being the main focal point down low, I know that they’re going to expect me to score down low a little bit more,” Oriakhi said.
Continued development on the offensive end, leadership in the paint, and a conscious effort to contain his emotions on the court can only help Oriakhi and the Tigers.
And as for the ignored high-five, there are no hard feelings.
“I’m just trying to get on the refs' good side," he said, "because I haven’t been lately.”