COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s basketball schedule resembled a college football schedule for the past three games.
The Tigers have played on every Saturday in December, but those are the only three games they played in the first 16 days of the month.
Much to the delight of the players, Missouri didn’t have to wait nearly as long to play its next game. After defeating McNeese State on Saturday night, the Tigers had only Sunday to get ready for tonight’s game against North Carolina A&T.
While it could be viewed as a difficult task to play two games in that short a period, the players are more than happy with the schedule. Especially after taking final exams last week.
“This is much how we’d rather have it,” forward Leo Lyons said. “Nobody likes practicing for a week and taking finals and stuff. Plus we don’t have class anymore, so we like it like this.”
Coaches normally love to have their team practice. They want to see the team prepare for an opponent. But coach Mike Anderson said that having a week of just practice can get old for the players.
“They’ve been playing against each other, beating up on each other,” Anderson said. “Practice gets stale. So you got to play somebody.”
Forward Marshall Brown said that the team’s games against the Cowboys and Aggies not only serve as a way to get the Tigers used to competing against someone other than themselves again, but also provides a good simulation for type of schedule Missouri will face when it reaches Big 12 Conference play in January, when the Tigers will seldom have an entire week to prepare for an opponent.
Guard Matt Lawrence said practice might be more physically demanding than a game for the Tigers, so he welcomes the influx of games.
“Practice is a war for us,” Lawrence said. “Games are kind of a relief. I’m kind of excited to have another game on Monday. I love playing. Maybe give us a little time off from beating up on each other.”
The game against the Aggies also marks a change in the Tigers’ daily routines.
Tonight’s game is the second in a string of nine games where the Tigers will not have to worry about any school work. Their focus will be solely on basketball until classes resume on Jan. 22.
“We’re more focused,” Lyons said of playing games without having to worry about class. “A lot of guys are tired, we get a lot more rest. We get to take care of our injuries. So, we’re going to be a lot more ready.”
Lawrence said that the break between semesters will not only allow players to focus more on basketball, but also provide an opportunity for the team to build closer relationships since most MU students are at home for the holiday break.
“No one is in town, so all we’re going to be doing is hanging out with each other,” Lawrence said. “So hopefully it’s going to make us come closer and become more of a team.”
Having only one day off after beating McNeese State means the Tigers don’t have a lot of time to prepare for a North Carolina A&T team that likes to push the tempo. The Aggies scored a season-high 124 points against Southern Virginia on Dec. 5. This year, they have also scored 96 points against DePaul and Houston Baptist.
“It’s going to be a track meet,” Brown said. “They like to play a fast-paced game so it’s definitely something we’re looking forward to and we’re going to have to be ready for.”
Missouri defeated North Carolina A&T last season 101-80 in Columbia. That was the Tigers highest scoring game of the year, and Lawrence scored a career-high 27 in the victory.