The box score had to have an error. There was no way the totals were correct. Some mistake had to have been made or some prank had to have been pulled. After all, what are the odds a team would get outrebounded by nearly the same margin it won by in the opponents’ game less than a month ago?
But it happened. There was no mistake.
After getting outrebounded 41-17 by Kansas State on Jan. 13, the Wildcats had a 41-19 edge on Wednesday over the Tigers (13-7, 2-5 Big 12). After averaging 37 rebounds in their past three games, the Tigers seemed to think they had figured out how to consistently rebound.
Judging by what happened on Wednesday, they hadn’t.
“In that particular game, I think we kind of regressed,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said of the rebounding in his team’s 80-73 loss. “It’s something we had really been paying attention to. I thought, in that particular game, we went the other direction in terms of the effort on the boards, and that’s going to be collectively as a team.”
Kansas State has two players that are taller than any Missouri player. But 7-foot-3 Jason Bennett and 6-foot-10 Luis Colon combined for only one rebound. Instead, it was 6-foot-6 Akeem Wright and 6-foot-7 Cartier Martin who combined for 19 rebounds.
Missouri forward Leo Lyons said the quickness of Kansas State troubled the Tigers, similarly to the way it did in January.
“I think it’s just because they’ve got a lot of small, quick guys out there,” Lyons said. “It took us awhile to adjust. We adjusted too late.”
Although Lyons said the matchup against Kansas State may not have been in the Tigers’ favor, he didn’t say the Wildcats dictated rebounding.
“I think it’s just us really,” Lyons said. “Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don’t. Plain and simple. We get in trouble for that a lot.”
Anderson said Thursday he knew why the Tigers were unable to consistently rebound, and didn’t mention the Wildcats’ size or quickness. Instead, it was something Anderson preaches to his team that he said they lacked in Manhattan.
“It’s the will and the want to go get the ball,” Anderson said. “It was 18-12 (rebounds) at halftime. I think that when it comes down to winning basketball, the last 10 minutes, we’ve got to have the mind set that every rebound should be ours.”
After the first loss Missouri suffered against Kansas State, Anderson changed the starting lineup by inserting Kalen Grimes for Lyons. Missouri outrebounded the Jayhawks in its next game, and Grimes claimed 12 rebounds. That came after Grimes got no rebounds off the bench against Kansas State just two days earlier.
Anderson hinted he will evaluate whom he puts on the floor, but he didn’t mention any names.
“Maybe it’s a situation where we get some of the right people,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to find somebody who’s going to get to the glass, do the blue-collar. We’ve got to become a more blue-collar team.
“We’ll see. We’ll play it by ear,” Anderson said about lineup changes.
But the impact of changes is the players’ responsibility. All Anderson or his assistants can do is tell the team to rebound. After that, Anderson can’t control what happens.
He can, however, control what the team emphasizes during practice. Something he and his team are looking for is how to achieve consistency. Lyons said he doesn’t know why his team can outrebound Kansas in one game but allow Kansas State to get 22 more rebounds in another.
“I mean, I really can’t tell you,” Lyons said. “We’re still trying to figure that out right now. We’re working on it every day in practice trying to find out. Coach thinks it’s the guys we have out there right now.”
SEEING BIG RED: For a team struggling with its interior play, Nebraska center Aleks Maric probably isn’t a player Missouri fans want to see on Saturday. After allowing 24 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint, Missouri will have to contain Maric, who is averaging 15 points and 8.7 rebounds in Big 12 play.
“He’s a very good basketball player,” Anderson said of Maric, whom he coached against last season when Anderson was at Alabama-Birmingham. In that Dec. 3, 2005 game in Lincoln, Neb., Maric scored six points and had eight rebounds in a 73-72 loss for Nebraska. “He’s progressing, gotten better. Almost averaging a double-double. He’s one of the better post players in our league,”Anderson said.
Lyons, though, said he is eager to play against Maric.
“I look forward to stepping up to a challenge,” Lyons said. “They gotta guard me, too. So, I go out there like I have the advantage.”