COLUMBIA — A full day had passed since his team’s disappointing road loss to Kentucky, but Missouri coach Frank Haith still wasn’t pulling any punches on Monday.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Haith was clearly disappointed in his team’s performance defensively, and with good reason. After holding Kentucky to 15 points over the first 15 minutes of the game – which allowed Missouri to build a lead that grew to as many as 13 points – the Wildcats proceeded to mount a comeback by scoring at will.
“We had nobody play on that end of the court,” Haith said. “And when you have nobody play on that end of the court, you don’t have a chance.”
Haith had no problem pointing out the specific problems, either.
“We had so many breakdowns where we didn’t rotate, we didn’t shrink the gap and allowed them driving lanes and loose balls and poor close outs,” Haith said. “Just a lot of things.”
Haith blamed the Tigers’ mental approach, effectively saying his players tend to play better defense when they are scoring. That would explain why Missouri – which has generally had a much easier time scoring at home than on the road this season – is also so much better at home defensively.
“Our guys put so much of a premium on seeing the ball go in the basket,” Haith said. “We can’t let that effect how we play on the (other) end of the court. When you have six guys averaging double figures like we do, it’s…not always going to be your night. And when it’s not your night, you’ve got to continue to play the way you need to play on the defensive end.”
With the Southeastern Conference tournament looming, Haith knows this is something that needs to be corrected immediately.
“Yeah, it’s extremely frustrating because we can’t be the team we want to be,” Haith said. “We have to surrender the me for we. You get to that point in the game in the second half and guys fee’ like they’re not getting their shots or touches and therefore its effecting their effort and what they’re doing on defense, that’s very disturbing.
“We’ve got to be better than what we are. Athletically, physically, yeah, we can be good. We showed it. I mean, against Florida, we were terrific. I just think that we could be good. It’s a mindset. And it’s all about effort.”
Senior forward Alex Oriakhi agrees, but was adamant that he and his teammates want to win more than people give them credit for.
“For the most part, I feel guys are giving effort, I feel guys want to win,” Oriakhi said. “Because if you see the locker room after we lose, guys are really hurt. We put hours into this. We wake up at 7 and don’t come back until 7 at night. So when you don’t win, it hurts.”
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