COLUMBIA — Missouri senior forward Alex Oriakhi has apparently grown weary of the same old song-and-dance.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
With a 64-62 loss at Tennessee on Saturday, the Tigers suffered yet another close defeat against a fired-up Southeastern Conference squad that desperately needed a win to improve its chances of making of making the NCAA Tournament.
Im kind of tired of putting people in the tournament, Oriakhi said. Yeah, Im kind of tired of making peoples season, helping them out. Im trying to help us.
Missouri, which led Tennessee by eight points with around 10 minutes left to play, could have helped itself immensely with a win, one that would have given the Tigers a No. 3 seed and a double-bye in the SEC tournament, which starts this Wednesday.
As it stands, the Tigers who enter as the sixth seed with a 22-9 overall record, including an 11-7 mark in league play will now have to regain their mojo quickly after seeing their three-game winning streak come to an end. In recent weeks, Missouri has lost big road games to Arkansas and Kentucky, and both the Razorbacks and the Wildcats were in need of big wins to boost tournament resumes.
I think guys are ready to play again, Oriakhi said. I think were an extremely talented team, we can be extremely good defensively, we just have mental lapses. Im going to be in guys ears from now til this things over ... you make a mistake now, theres no tomorrow.
Oriakhi can speak from a position of power. He won a national championship with the 2010-2011 Connecticut Huskies, a team that, rather extraordinarily, won 11 games in 28 days after entering the Big East tournament after finishing in a tie for ninth in conference at 9-9.
I always say anything can happen if youre willing to fight, Oriakhi said. Thats what I try to tell these guys.
His teammates, it appears, are listening. Senior forward Laurence Bowers said the Tigers, who would need to win four games in four days to win the SEC tournament title, can draw inspiration from the Huskies performance on the road to the Big East tournament title that season.
I think they won five games in five days, so its possible, Bowers said. Weve just got to go in with the mentality that we can win every game.
Missouri coach Frank Haith said the ingredients are present for a deep run.
Youve got to have a little star power, which we do have, Haith said. We have length, weve got size and were defending pretty good right now I think well be ready on Thursday.
With its first-round bye, Missouri will play at 9 p.m. on Thursday against the winner of Wednesdays Auburn-Texas A&M game.
Bowers back in stride
After battling his way back from a mid-season knee injury, senior forward Laurence Bowers is definitely getting his groove back, as his soaring, two-handed flush over Tennessees Jarnell Stokes on Saturday proved.
I was a little timid when I first got back, Bowers said. I wouldnt have tried the dunk a month or two ago. But Im starting to have a lot more confidence in my legs and my springs. I definitely feel Im starting to get it back.
Bowers has averaged 22.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in his last three games.
• Junior forward Earnest Ross, a transfer from Auburn, was fittingly asked if hed be ready to face his old school in the second round, if it turns out that way.
Absolutely, laughed Ross, who lit the Tigers up for 23 points in a 91-77 Missouri win on Feb. 2. I will definitely be ready for them if we get a chance to play them. But Texas A&M, were going to be prepared for them also.