COLUMBIA— Remember Murphy Holloway?
He’s the Ole Miss senior who is averaging a double-double, an aggressive forward who has led the Rebels to an 18-4 record — and a prime reason why Missouri was blown out last month in Oxford, Miss.
Who: No. 21 Missouri vs. Ole Miss
Where: Mizzou Arena
Holloway had 22 points, eight rebounds, four steals and one block against the Tigers in their 64-49 loss to the Rebels.
Saturday, Holloway and the Tigers (16-6, 5-4 in the Southeastern Conference) will meet again at Mizzou Arena, but it’s not just Holloway that Missouri needs to worry about. The Tigers have had a few problems of their own lately.
Several factors played in to the upset loss against the Rebels.
The senior forward did not play in the Tigers' first road match in mid-January because of a sprain in his right knee. Starting in his place was Earnest Ross, who had only three points on 1-for-7 shooting. With Bowers back in the lineup, Missouri will not only be better situated offensively, but will also have another big man to guard Holloway.
This has been an issue for No. 21 Missouri all season long. The Tigers turned the ball over 19 times against the Rebels, four of those turnovers coming at the hands of Holloway. Every starter for Missouri had at least two turnovers, with Phil Pressey leading the team with five. If Missouri wants any chance at beating Ole Miss, it needs to control the pace of the game without giving away scoring opportunities.
The Tigers shot 2-for-18 from behind the arc against Ole Miss, with Pressey, Ross, Keion Bell, and Negus Webster-Chan shooting a combined 0-for-11. Instead of shooting 3-pointers, Missouri needs to work the ball inside to its big men in Bowers and Alex Oriakhi.
Missouri was outrebounded for the first time all season against Ole Miss, 33 to 31. Holloway and forward Reginald Buckner had a combined 18 boards, including three offensive rebounds apiece. It’s important for the Tigers to limit any type of second chance opportunities for the Rebels, as they have the SEC’s leading scorer in Marshall Henderson (20 points per game, though just 11 points against Missouri last month).
Missouri only attempted six free throws, compared to the Rebels' 20. While the Tigers have improved that statistic in the past couple of games, they need to continue to drive to the basket and get fouled. On Thursday, the Tigers lost to Texas A&M 70-68, but they went to the line 24 times, keeping them in the game until the final seconds.
What it all means
If Missouri can contain Holloway, get a productive game out of Bowers, limit the turnovers, stop forcing 3-pointers, outrebound the Rebels and get to the line, it has a great chance of redeeming its 15-point loss.
Then again, the Tigers will be playing at home, where they are a perfect 13-0 this season. So that should help, too.