Playing follow the leader might help Missouri men's basketball

Friday, February 1, 2013 | 8:09 p.m. CST
Missouri guard Phil Pressey has been seen as the Tigers' leader since the start of the season. "I know Phil’s heart," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "I know he wants to win, and I know he’s a competitor. He is our leader, and he’s doing a really good job of it. I don’t point to him, I point more to the other guys."

COLUMBIA — Follow the leader.

We all know the phrase, played the game, heard the song.

Last year’s Missouri basketball team was great at it, nine guys following the veteran leadership of Kim English and Marcus Denmon, translating to a 30-5 record.

But this year’s team is different.

Sure, Missouri has its leaders in Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers, but the Tigers are lacking a following from the rest of the team, one that is built off of transfers.

Missouri (15-5, 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference) lost again on the road Thursday to LSU (11-7, 2-5 in SEC). Bad fouls, a lack of energy, a terrible first half and poor communication caused the loss.

The Tigers once again struggled to find any type of offensive or defensive rhythm, and in the few moments that they did, it was already too late.

The game saw mixed results for the Tigers' leaders. Bowers played in his first game after missing five with a sprained right knee and contributed 10 points and six rebounds. Pressey finished the game with 25 points and five assists, sometimes driving the lane for an easy layup, while other times forcing a 3-point attempt, going 1-for-9 from behind the arc.

The team's newcomers struggled. Alex Oriakhi played 16 minutes, scoring only one point with three rebounds after getting into foul trouble. Earnest Ross struggled in the first half and contributed seven points. Jabari Brown added 19, but was 5-for-13 shooting. Negus Webster-Chan had three points in 23 minutes, and Tony Criswell had five points in 22 minutes.

In order for this team to have any type of success for the rest of the season, especially during tournament play, they have to follow the leaders.

“Laurence by nature is a quiet kid,” coach Frank Haith said in a teleconference Thursday. “I think Phil has done a great job of (being a leader).

"The thing about those two guys, I know Phil’s heart. I know he wants to win, and I know he’s a competitor. He is our leader, and he’s doing a really good job of it. I don’t point to him, I point more to the other guys. The other guys in terms of buying in, that’s what has to happen,” he said.

The next true test for the leaders and followers will be next week when the Tigers search for their first road win against Texas A&M on Feb. 7. Until then, they will have to sort out their struggles at home against Auburn (8-12, 2-5 in SEC) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I think we have to get that point across. We need those guys understanding that they got to want to follow,” Haith said.

“Right now, we need the following as much as we need the leadership.”

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