NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When asked about junior point guard Phil Pressey, who again came under fire Saturday for missing a late shot in a road loss to Tennessee, Missouri coach Frank Haith — who expressed his frustration with the shot after that game — came to the defense of his co-captain.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
I think Phil is capable — he’s a great point guard,” Haith said Wednesday as the Tigers prepared to open the SEC Tournament. “He’s capable of scoring, but … when he plays with the mind-set ‘I’m going make my guys around me better,’ that’s when we are really good.”
Haith also pointed out that Pressey, who averages 11.9 points and a SEC-best 7.1 assists per game, has made a lot of good decisions for Missouri, too, and the Tigers’ wouldn’t have been in several games without his unique gifts.
“You know, I think Phil is primed to have a nice stretch run here,” Haith said.
• The Southeastern Conference may not get much respect nationally — only one of the league’s 14 teams (Florida) is ranked in either Top 25 poll — but Haith repeated his belief Wednesday that the SEC is tougher than people realize, and points to the recent surges by several teams as proof.
“Teams like Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, they played their best basketball later in the year because they were so young,” Haith said.
Tennessee has won eight of its last nine games, while Alabama has won eight of its last 12 and Georgia has won nine of its last 15.
• One player who has drawn plenty of praise of Haith in recent weeks is senior guard Keion Bell, who didn’t make the all-SEC team announced this week but has arguably been Missouri’s most consistent player during conference play. Bell is averaging 15.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and two assists in his last 11 games.
“I think it took him some time to find out his niche and his role and how he’s going to be able to have the impact he needed to have for us to be successful,” Haith said.
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