COLUMBIA — Five losses, five explanations, five reasons.
It’s only February, and with Wednesday night’s 73-70 loss to LSU, the No. 17-ranked Missouri men's basketball team (15-5, 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference) already has as many losses as last year’s team.
Auburn (8-12, 2-5 SEC) at
No. 17 Missouri (15-5, 4-3 SEC)
WHEN: 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
TV: KQFX Fox 22
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM
In each loss, Missouri coach Frank Haith has stressed a certain aspect that needs to be improved, but judging from the results, something isn't working, or someone isn't listening.
Nov. 23: No. 13-ranked Missouri loses to No. 2 Louisville 84-61
Way back in November, then No. 13-ranked Missouri lost its first game to Louisville 84-61 in the Battle for Atlantis tournament, accumulating 21 turnovers. Following the game, Haith stressed ball control.
“It was the turnovers," Haith said at the time. "We just had some careless plays. We have to find a way to make plays. Guys were trying to make home run plays instead of the easy plays."
Since that game, Missouri has gone 11-4. In the 11 wins, the Tigers averaged just more than 10 turnovers a game, but in the four losses, just more than 16.
Dec. 28: No. 7-ranked Missouri loses to UCLA 97-94 in OT
The second loss came a month later, when then No. 7-ranked Missouri traveled to UCLA and lost 97-94 in an overtime thriller. Not only did the Tigers turn over the ball 17 times in the game, they also had just 10 free-throw attempts.
In his post-game speech, a frustrated Haith emphasized the need for his team to draw fouls.
"Somehow we have to get to the free-throw line, get to the bonus. We have to be a little more aggressive. ... We will learn from it (the loss). There is a lot of basketball left in the season," Haith said.
Since that game, Missouri has gone 5-3. In the five wins, the Tigers averaged just more than 22 free-throw attempts per game, but in the three losses, 15.
Jan. 12: No. 10-ranked Missouri loses to Ole Miss 64-49
Fast-forward 15 days, and then No. 10-ranked Missouri traveled on the road to face unranked Ole Miss in its first Southeastern Conference road game. The Tigers lost 64-49, racking up 19 turnovers, only six free-throw attempts, and for the first time, they were outrebounded 33-31.
Following the game, a solemn Haith voiced his opinion as to why his team played so poorly.
“I thought they (Ole Miss) were much tougher than us. They played with much more energy. We didn’t attack. They were way more aggressive than we were, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
One week later, it was the same story.
Jan. 19: No. 17-ranked Missouri loses to No. 10-ranked Florida 83-52
Then No. 17-ranked Missouri traveled to Gainesville to face then No. 10-ranked Florida. The Tigers were crushed 83-52, had 21 turnovers, 17 free-throw attempts, and were outrebounded 30-19.
Following the game, Haith tried again.
"Our emotions are not right. We got to do a better job of handling adversity. Within the game, I thought we weren't able to stay in the present. We let things affect us in a negative way. When you're playing against a good team like this, we cannot allow that to happen.”
Jan. 30: No. 17-ranked Missouri loses to LSU 73-70
Wednesday, Missouri lost its fifth game of the season 73-70 on the road in Baton Rouge, losing to the team with the worst record in the SEC.
But Missouri turned over the ball only eight times, had 22 free-throw attempts, and outrebounded LSU 38-24.
So what went wrong?
“We can’t communicate,” Haith said Thursday during a teleconference. "We gave up so many plays in that ball game. We gave up 10 points over fouling jump shooters. We had two unforced turnovers where they (LSU) got layups. We had five points where we lost 50/50 balls. In total we had 27 points where that’s just bad play. If we just cut that in half we still win that game by 10."
“Maybe I will point to myself and say we have to be better communicators. Some say there’s a disconnect there somewhere. In huddles, timeouts, we talk about what we want to do and then we go out there and do something totally the opposite. We have to get better at it, particularly on the road.”
Five losses, five explanations and five reasons. If Missouri continues to falter in the same areas it has struggled in, especially communication, that number could soon be six.