COLUMBIA — On December, 6 2003 the Missouri Tigers defeated the Inidana Hoosiers 63-58 in Bloomington, Ind.
That victory is significant because it was the last time that MU won a road game against a non-conference opponent. Since that day in Indiana seven such games have presented themselves to the Tigers, and all of those games have a tiny “L” next to them in the team’s media guide.
In fact, MU has only won one game away from its home court against a non-Big 12 team in the time since that game. That lone victory came when then Tigers defeated Maryland in Kansas City earlier this year during the CBE Classic.
This peculiar losing streak is what the Tigers will be trying to end this afternoon when they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss.
A win would also provide the Tigers with a line that might look good on a tournament resume. The Bulldogs play in the SEC and have had some success in their recent history. They have qualified for postseason play in six of the eight postseasons since 2000, including four NCAA Tournament berths. Last season the Bulldogs went to the semifinals of the NIT before losing to West Virginia.
“It would give us a lot of confidence heading into the Big 12,” forward Leo Lyons said of potentially beating Mississippi State. “We’ve got some tough teams coming up early, so a win like that could boost us a lot.”
Confidence is something that guard J.T. Tiller also felt MU would gain if it could beat Mississippi State.
“That’d mean a lot before conference play,” Tiller said. “Give us some more confidence.”
While success on the road against non-conference opponents has been non-existent recently for MU, the team has won conference road games during that time. And for Lyons, playing on the road provides him with a little extra motivation.
“Playing against people in their own gym is better than playing at home sometimes, to me,” Lyons said. “Because you get so much energy out there when there’s a lot of people against you. I like that type of environment.”
MU has played two road games this season, losing to Arkansas and California, and coach Mike Anderson views this next road test against Mississippi State as a chance for MU to accomplish something new this season.
“I think with this basketball team, that’s what we haven’t done this year,” Anderson said of getting a road victory. “We’ve won a game on a neutral site, and we’ve had some tests on the road where we’ve come up short and now here comes another opportunity.”
The Bulldogs not only present a challenge for MU because they are playing on their home court but also because they have some very versatile players that hurt opposing teams in many facets of the game.
The two best examples of this versatility are guard Jamont Gordon, who averages 17.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game and forward Charles Rhodes who is scoring 15.6 per game to go along with 7.3 rebounds.
“There would be concerns (of matching up with these players) if we weren’t athletic ourselves,” Lyons said. “It’s kind of like going out there and playing against yourself. It’s whoever is smarter and plays the hardest.”
Anderson said that playing the Bulldogs will not be easy, noting that he felt MU escaped with a 83-75 victory at Mizzou Arena last season.
“It’s going to be a tough ball game, but it’s a challenge and it’s just that next level that we’ve got to reach,” Anderson said.