University of Missouri

Schedule gets busier as Missouri enters SEC play

Updated: 2014-01-08T04:26:59Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

— Over the last month, the Missouri men’s basketball team averaged one game per week.

There was the stirring home victory against UCLA on Dec. 7 then an eight-day break.

The Tigers knocked off Western Michigan on Dec. 15 and then had six days off before playing Illinois

There also was a weeklong layoff between games against the Fighting Illini, North Carolina State and Long Beach State.

“I hate them,” Brown said when asked about the lengthy gaps between games. “It’s tough. I kind of feel like I’ve got to start playing basketball all over again. You’ve got to get a rhythm, so I’m looking forward to having more than one game a week personally.”

It’s both a blessing and potentially a curse for No. 21 Missouri, 12-1, which begins Southeastern Conference play at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Georgia at Mizzou Arena.

The blessing is that the Tigers hope to gain consistency by playing more consistently.

“Playing one game a week, it’s hard to get into a rhythm,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I think we’ll have a chance to get into a better rhythm now that you’re playing two games a week.”

Perhaps, but the Tigers’ bench is not deep.

Four starters average 27 minutes or more per game, led by junior Jabari Brown, who averages 37.2 minutes per game and has logged 484 of a possible 520 minutes this season.

“We have to get more out of our bench and get more minutes out of those guys,” Haith said. “(Senior forward) Tony (Criswell) and (freshman guard) Wes (Clark), in particular, we need more minutes out of those guys.”

Beyond that, the bench gets thin in a hurry.

Freshmen Shane Rector and Torren Jones have combined for 78 minutes and played in only eight of 13 games each.

Junior Danny Feldmann has appeared in five games.

The best hope for a breakout player in SEC play might be junior Keanau Post, a transfer from Southwestern Illinois Community College.

Big things were expected from the 6-foot-11 Post, but he wasn’t a factor in nonconference play as minor injuries and a lack of confidence tamped down his performance and minutes.

Haith isn’t interested in doling out charity minutes in an effort to save his starters or lengthen his bench.

“We want to have a good rotation,” Haith said. “In terms of monitoring it, we want to win games. We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to help us win games.”

Unless something changes, that means a seven-man rotation — and a heavy workload on Brown, junior Jordan Clarkson, senior Earnest Ross and freshman Johnathan Williams III.

“I’m not really worried about it,” Brown said. “I played a lot of minutes last year. Not as many, but I feel like I’m ready for this long haul for the SEC. I feel like everybody else will be too. We’ve got to take care of our bodies, and I feel like we’ll do that.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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