Tigers get time to improve play

Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:25 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

After finally ending a three-game losing streak, the Tigers could use some time off.

For the first time since the season began for the Missouri men’s basketball team, coach Quin Snyder and his team are getting an extended break. The Tigers played six games in a two-week span, twice playing games on consecutive nights in the Guardians Classic. The strain of a hectic schedule has taken a toll according to Snyder, who said little time to make corrections has been a problem.

“Part of the last five days is not having time to make a lot of serious adjustments because you’re playing three games in five days,” Snyder said. “You know what some of the problems are but you got to get on the court to fix them.

“The biggest thing for us to fix is our resolve defensively. That’s what cost us, I think, the Davidson, Creighton, some of those games.”

Snyder said the Tigers will also have more time to work on their offense. He said the Tigers needed to improve their screening and movement. This should help forward Linas Kleiza, who has been in a slump the past three games after starting the season earning more than 20 points and nine rebounds per game. Snyder said the increased movement will keep teams from keying on Kleiza and taking him out of the game.

“Right now if we run ball screens for (Kleiza), they’re switching it or they’re jamming it and going under where they’re just deciding ‘We’ll take him away.’” Snyder said. “It’s my job to help him and I think we know how to do that.”

Spencer Laurie, a sophomore point guard, hasn’t been taken out of the game by good defense but a high ankle sprain. Laurie has been wearing street clothes for three games and his return is unpredictable. The break, though, could be enough time to get him back on the court. The Tigers are eager for his return because they miss his presence on the court.

“I think Spencer’s poise on the court and his… he’s crafty,” Snyder said. “In those transition situations that’s some of what you need. He may not just blow by his guy all the time, but if you put him in open court and he finds a way to make plays.”

Snyder said Laurie and Jason Horton, a freshman point guard, always pushed each other to become better players.

Laurie’s teammates echoed the sentiments of their coach saying it was important to get Laurie healthy and back in the lineup.

“(Missing Laurie) hurt us a lot,” junior guard Jimmy McKinney said after Sunday’s game. “Things that he can do on the ball and off the ball and guarding people on the ball are just little things that we missed today and he can do.”

McKinney, who played point last year, has returned to splitting time with Horton while Laurie has been out. Even though McKinney doesn’t like the situation, he said he has felt fairly comfortable back in his old spot.

“I think I did pretty good,” McKinney said. “I was comfortable with it. I’ve just got to get used to playing the position until Spencer Laurie gets back.”

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