Missouri men's basketball confronts disconnect in aftermath of SEC tournament exit

Saturday, March 16, 2013 | 1:03 a.m. CDT; updated 5:24 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 16, 2013
Missouri forward Laurence Bowers hangs his head while leaving the court Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. after losing their SEC Tournament quarterfinal game against Ole Miss. After leading by as much as 14 points, the Tigers fell 64-62 in the last few seconds of the game.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The disappointment was distinct.

Missouri associate head coach Tim Fuller walked out of the Missouri locker room with a blank look on his face.

Inside the room, Missouri point guard Phil Pressey took his time to lace up his shoes before answering questions from reporters, who asked their questions quietly. He responded to questions softly, eyes shifted downwards.

Tigers forward Laurence Bowers sat slouching in another corner of the locker room, a foot perched on the bench he was sitting on, looking upwards at the fluorescent lights as he answered questions from other reporters. 

The hum of those lights were louder than the Missouri players as they quietly answered questions from reporters just 10 minutes after a 64-62 loss to Ole Miss in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament.

That the Tigers lost mattered less than the way the loss had unfolded over the last few minutes. Those final minutes lingered now as, every few seconds, the click of a camera pierced the drone of the lights and muffled chatter.

Tigers forward Tony Criswell silently stared a photographer down. The two made eye contact and the piercing click-click of the camera stopped for an moment. Criswell turned toward his locker and shook his head in frustration as he took off his gold jersey.

Outside Missouri's locker room, ecstatic Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson burst out of his locker room screaming in celebration and giving high-fives to Ole Miss supporters as he ran to another room. There was nothing incongruous about the moment for him. 

A few minutes later, Missouri coach Frank Haith, forward Alex Oriakhi and Pressey walked out of the locker room to speak to more reporters.

They talked about how they were going to move on from the loss.

A more optimistic Pressey talked about what mindset Missouri needed to be in when it entered the NCAA Tournament.

"It doesn't shake our confidence at all," Pressey said about the loss. "I'll get my guys ready to play next game. This next game is for the marbles. All the records go out the window."

Someone asked Oriakhi where he thought Missouri was going to be seeded, a question Oriakhi could not answer.

An exhausted-looking Haith put his palm on his face, looked down and shook his head as Oriakhi spoke.

The Tigers will find out who they play in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday evening. Then, they will move on. 

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