Missouri men's basketball team still stumped by road games

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | 8:50 p.m. CST; updated 8:37 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 13, 2013

COLUMBIA — No one knows why the Missouri men's basketball team looks like an NCAA Tournament team at home and like a bottom-feeder in a mid-major league on the road.

It's the mystery of the season. No one can explain it — not the players, not the coach. Missouri is 0-5 on the road, even after several injury issues have faded. Missouri is 14-0 at home — the complete opposite.

Wednesday's game

Missouri (17-6, 6-4 SEC)
at Mississippi State ( 7-15, 2-8 SEC)

WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.

*Bulldogs guard Fred Thomas leads his team with 10.5 points per game

The next segment of the schedule will be the toughest. The Tigers will play four of five games away, and start the road stretch Wednesday at Mississippi State.

The Tigers have played at rowdy arenas like Ole Miss' Tad Smith Coliseum and Florida's O'Connell Center, and have been blown out in those games. Missouri also played Thursday at Texas A&M's half-full, more quaint Reed Arena — losing 70-68.

"We're going on the road again where we haven't had success yet in terms of winning a road game," coach Frank Haith said. Those were his first words at a news conference Monday at Mizzou Arena.

Later, he rattled off what needed to be fixed: Stop taking quick shots, run a good offense, get the ball in the paint, play defense, execute late in the game — all things Haith has repeated for weeks, all things Haith's players just don't do on the road.

All things the Tigers strangely do at home with no problem. No one knows why.

"It's just, it's just frustrating when you don't know what it is, and you can't figure it out," Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi said.

Oriakhi said he tries to look at the situation with optimism, telling himself and his teammates to just stay positive and they might finally get the taste of a road win.

Like the team, Oriakhi is different at home. In a 98-79 win against Ole Miss at home, Oriakhi only had one foul. In the game before that at Texas A&M, Oriakhi had four.

Senior guard Keion Bell, a psychology major, said he does not know if the team's road problems is a psychological issue.

"I'm not a shrink," Bell said, laughing.

What Bell does know is that his teammates sometimes lose faith when they trail early.

"If we just stick together, we can just chip away and get back into the game," Bell said.

Bell has been a focal point of Missouri's offense and defense in his past seven games, shooting 57.4 percent and averaging 2.2 steals.

It has become apparent that no one knows the real answer. If the Tigers had a solution, they would have won a road game.

For now, Missouri hopes to find the solution against Mississippi State (7-15, 2-8).

"It's important that we have a great mindset," Haith said. "We're playing a team that I think plays extremely hard."

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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