A day before matching up with Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament, Missouri coach Frank Haith ran through a series of keys to the game — taking charges, guard play, effort plays. They all seemed worthy of making his list.
But he ended the list with perhaps the most crucial item.
“There’s no question rebounding is a big part of it, too,” he added.
Turns out, Haith was right. Except knowledge and execution were far apart Thursday night.
Colorado State outrebounded Missouri by 23 on the way to an 84-72 win.
“I think they were just way more aggressive in searching out loose balls,” Haith said. “I wish we would’ve been more passionate about rebounding, because that’s what it is. It’s about desire.”
The battle on the boards — which finished at 42-19 in favor of the Rams — proved as crucial as it was unusual.
A formidable Missouri frontcourt had dominated the glass most of the season — especially lately. Missouri entered the night having outrebounded its previous 15 opponents by an average of 10.7 per game. And for the season, the Tigers ranked second in the nation with 41.4 rebounds per game.
But a typically reliable advantage was nonexistent Thursday, and Colorado State senior Colton Iverson made sure of it. Although he scored only four points, Iverson pulled down 13 rebounds, including eight after halftime before fouling out with 1:30 remaining and the Rams in control.
“It was a little bit of a lack of focus,” said MU senior forward Alex Oriakhi, who defended Iverson most of the night. “On my part, I definitely could’ve done a better job of blocking out. ... I think it was a lack of focus, and they were quicker to the ball.”
Colorado State was particularly stout on the offensive glass. The Rams grabbed 16 offensive rebounds.
Laurence Bowers and Tony Criswell led Missouri with only four rebounds.
Oriakhi, who led the team with 8.6 rebounds per game, finished with two.
“I thought they were the most aggressive team,” Haith said. “They really went after us. ... I thought they dominated that part of the game.”