LEXINGTON, Ky. — Laurence Bowers sat at his locker, dejected, his eyes glued to the floor.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
The end of his college career was upon him, thanks to an 84-72 loss to Colorado State on Thursday, and yet, the fifth-year Missouri senior still found himself giving words of advice to junior forward Tony Criswell.
Its on you now, Bowers told his junior understudy, who nodded.
If Criswell and his returning teammates want to take a lesson from the loss, its this: Dont let your senior season end this way, a game where you were outrebounded by 23 and didnt give the effort needed to defend adequately, either.
They beat us by a pretty good margin on the glass and got all the 50-50 balls, Bowers said of Missouris 42-19 rebounding deficit. They took what was theirs. They played great the first half, and we came out the second half on a little streak, you know, and our effort kind of died down.
Thats it, man.
Bowers, who finished with seven points and four rebounds, punctuated those last three words with a mixture of exasperation and frustration that was matched by fellow senior Alex Oriakhi, who tried to make sense of it all a few lockers over.
Oriakhi, who finished the game with 16 points and two rebounds, spoke quietly as reporters asked him questions. Next to him lay a pair of bright yellow shoes with the words killed or be killed scribbled in black Magic Marker, which seemed to say it all on this night.
A lot of emotions, Oriakhi said. Obviously, Im very sad. This was like home for me for the short period of time I was here. Its hard to put in words. Im extremely happy I came here, and I wouldnt change my decision.
"I wish I could play here forever.
Even senior Keion Bell, who started the game but only played 12 minutes and didnt play at all in the second half, was perhaps curiously, given the circumstances fondly reflective.
The thing that I take with me most is the lessons coach (Frank) Haith has taught me beyond basketball, Bell said. Ive only known him and been coached (by) him for two years and hes taught me so much, so many lessons that go beyond basketball. Im just grateful I got the opportunity to play under these guys.
Junior guard Phil Pressey, who is expected to explore the possibility of entering the NBA Draft in June, was sad to know that Thursday was it for three seniors.
Those guys really put everything into this game (of basketball), Pressey said. Its sad to see us go out like this.
Pressey shrugged off a question about his future by saying he doesnt know when he would make a decision but admitted that it would be tough to leave under the circumstances.
It makes you just want to get back to the drawing board, get back in the gym, Pressey said. You want to get back in the gym and get better and look forward to next season.
Junior guard Earnest Ross was struck by the finality of the loss, Missouris third straight first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament.
Just seize the moment when its here, because when its over, its over, Ross said. You dont want to say that you could have done something better or you could have played harder. Youve got to give it your all when youre out there on the court.
Despite the disappointing finish, Haith insisted that a 23-11 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance werent too shabby, and that his seniors should not be downcast given what they had accomplished.
How can you say weve had a terrible season? Haith asked. Thats disappointing for someone to say that to me. We had one player returning from last years team, and we make it to the NCAA Tournament. I dont know if people understand how hard it is to make it.
So Im proud of these guys. They competed this year and got themselves in position to play in the tournament.