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Missouri men's basketball team still trying to find consistency

Monday, February 25, 2013 | 8:33 p.m. CST; updated 2:56 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 7, 2013
MU forward Alex Oriakhi loses the ball in the paint in the first half of the basketball game against Kentucky on Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

COLUMBIA — At halftime, the Missouri men's basketball team seemed like it had a good chance of leaving Rupp Arena victorious.

Instead Missouri left frustrated.

Forward Tony Criswell said he just wanted to get back to Columbia to put Saturday night's 90-83 overtime loss to Kentucky behind him. Forward Alex Oriakhi said when he boarded the team plane he felt like he wanted to punch a wall out of anger.

"There's nothing you can really do, but you have to move on," Oriakhi said. "That's the only thing I know. Every time we lose or something bad happens, I know I can't get it back."

On Monday at Mizzou Arena, after Oriakhi finished answering questions from reporters about Missouri's loss and where the team is headed, he went back toward the locker room and let out a long sigh.

Two days after the loss, Missouri was still disappointed.

The general feeling was that the Tigers lacked a strong defensive effort against Kentucky.

"We had nobody play at that end of the court," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "When you have nobody play at that end of the court, you ain't got a chance."

The Tigers have been inconsistent this season, especially on defense.

Missouri defended well against Florida on Feb. 19, eventually winning 63-60. The Tigers fought for every ball and out rebounded the Gators 40-28.

Things were different against Kentucky, especially in the second half.

Missouri was winning the rebound battle early in the first half, its players grabbing any balls bouncing their way. Missouri could not keep the defensive effort up.

Haith said he did not think Pressey's missed 3-pointer with 1:32 left in overtime or his turnover with 49 seconds left caused the loss.

Instead Haith pointed at the lack of rebounding.

"Our three, four and five's stopped going to the offensive glass at the second half when we were getting offensive rebounds in the first half," Haith said.

The Tigers out rebounded the Wildcats 27-18 in the first half. Missouri was out rebounded 14-9 in the second half and 41-39 for the game.

Haith also pointed out plays where Missouri failed to fight for loose balls and failed to play defense together.

After Pressey made a 3-pointer with 7 seconds to go in the first half, Kentucky finished the half with a fast-break dunk by Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein because Missouri could not regroup fast enough.

"I haven't seen nothing consistently defensively," Haith said. "That consistency is what we want to see at this point of year."

With four games (two at home and two away) left in the regular season, achieving a consistent defensive effort is vital for Missouri — even more so with postseason play coming up.

Haith said he anticipates the final games against South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee will all be close.

Missouri (19-8, 8-6) will play South Carolina (13-14, 3-11) on the road Thursday night.

 


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