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MU tries to keep its focus

Basketball team has reminders about what losing concentration can do.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:15 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The Missouri men’s basketball team has had plenty of reminders of what losing concentration in a game can do. Maybe a few too many reminders.

To open the Big 12 Conference season, the Tigers blew a 16-point second half lead against Iowa State on a way to their first of four losses to start conference play. In total, Missouri (17-10, 6-8 Big 12 Conference) has lost five conference games in which it held the lead at some point in the second half.

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Missouri’s Kalen Grimes isn’t worried about the Tigers overlooking Colorado. (MAGGIE RIFE/Missourian)

So even though Colorado (6-18, 2-12 Big 12) comes into Mizzou Arena tonight winless on the road in the conference, the Tigers are assuring themselves they won’t overlook the Big 12’s last-place team. Missouri center Grimes even laughed when asked about the possibility of overlooking the Buffaloes.

“Well, hopefully we’ve learned our lesson by now,” Grimes said. “You have to have the mind set to where you know if you don’t compete, you could end up with a loss. When you try to overlook a team, they will beat you.”

But if they need one more reminder, the Tigers can look at Colorado’s game on Feb. 3, a game in which the Buffaloes dominated NCAA tournament hopeful Oklahoma State.

“Just know that any team can beat you in the Big 12,” Missouri forward Marshall Brown said. “They beat Oklahoma State. So even though they’re at the bottom, you still can’t take that for granted. And we know that by now.”

Despite its 2-12 record, Colorado does have one of the conference’s toughest matchups, guard Richard Roby. When Missouri beat the Buffaloes in Boulder, Colo., on Jan 24, its defense, especially its zone defense, clearly made Roby uncomfortable. A frustrated Roby had a team-leading four turnovers. Colorado’s junior guard also had one of his worst shooting games this season, a 4-for-12 performance in which he scored only 11 points.

“I think we defended him well the first time we played Colorado,” Grimes said. “We’ll have to come out with that same kind of pressure. Players don’t like being pressured.”

But Roby is still averaging more than 17 points per game this season. And he is even regarded as a possible NBA prospect, despite being in only his junior season.

“I think Roby’s a very talented player,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s unfortunate all of the things that have taken place there at Colorado. But he had an outstanding year. He’s been a marked guy. But I think lately he’s been playing a whole lot better. He’s a guy that’s capable of scoring and putting up some big numbers. That’s something as we get ready to prepare for him, we’ve got to be aware of that.”

Playing against a team like Colorado could help the Tigers get back some of the momentum they lost in Saturday’s defeat against Nebraska. The loss at Nebraska ended a three-game winning streak for Missouri. After playing Colorado tonight, the Tigers travel to conference-leader Texas A&M on Saturday. Then postseason play begins with the Big 12 tournament next Thursday.

“It’s important to have some confidence going into that,” Brown said. “I think we’re playing good basketball right now. … Winning these last two games would give us some momentum as we enter the conference tournament.”

With those two regular season games remaining on its schedule, Missouri still has a chance to finish the conference season at .500. After being part of the team that finished 5-12 last year in conference play, Brown said he would view that as an accomplishment.

“It would show the strides that we’ve made,” Brown said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress from the beginning of the season until now. I think if we could finish .500, that would be a big statement for us this year.”


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