Missouri coach Kim Anderson didn’t arrive for his postgame press conference Saturday until more than a half hour after a 20-point loss to Mississippi.
He apologized for the tardiness during his opening remarks, but the Tigers needed to air locker-room grievances, then clear the air in the wake of a 67-47 loss, the worst loss for the program at Mizzou Arena in nearly five years.
“We were just talking,” Anderson said Saturday before a long pause. “About the game.”
With Missouri in the midst of a seven-game slide, matching the program’s longest losing streak since 1992-93, it’s understandable that frustration has built up going into tonight’s 8 p.m. game at Alabama.
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The Tigers are a young bunch and unaccustomed to losing.
“It probably has taken a toll on somebody, but we all had a talk after the Ole Miss game,” senior point guard Keith Shamburger said. “That’s probably why it took Coach so long to talk to the media after the game. We all had a talk and (Monday) we had a good practice.”
Shamburger said the postgame conversation was a mix of encouragement and criticism. The floor was open for “whoever felt like they needed to say something,” he said.
Anderson started and finished the rap session, but several players spoke in between, and Shamburger believes the chat will pay dividends for Missouri during February and beyond.
“I’m telling you, that was a great talk, and I think it will help going forward,” Shamburger said. “It was just the realization of our team, the realization of life and what we really need to do and how we really need to play and the things we really need to do. If we had been doing those things from the beginning, it would be a whole different outcome.”
Anderson admitted that MU’s season has proven more challenging than he expected, but he isn’t going to throw in the towel.
“I knew this was going to be a challenge,” Anderson said. “Would I like for it to better? Yes, I would, but all I can do is just keep working — getting up, trying to help, trying to get better. I’ve learned a lot.”
So have Missouri’s players, even if the lessons have been more of the hard-knock variety.
“Everybody’s looking to get better every day,” sophomore guard Wes Clark said. “There’s not one particular person that’s given up or lost hope. We’re just trying to pull together. … We’re all learning and just feeding off of each and trying to get better.”
The Tigers, 7-14 overall and 1-7 in the Southeastern Conference, get a chance to turn things around tonight at Alabama, which has lost five of its last six games after a 2-0 conference start.
Anderson said he’s done his best to remain positive and encouraging, especially with Missouri’s freshmen, but nothing would be more of a balm than a victory.
“We have to obviously try to figure out a way to win a game,” Anderson said. “It’s hard. When you lose consecutive games like we have, it’s tough on guys. … We’ve got to play with the same type of energy we played against Arkansas or Kentucky and not the type of energy we played against Mississippi.”
Anderson also said that freshman guard Tramaine Isabell remains indefinitely suspended and won’t play against the Crimson Tide, 13-8 and 3-5.
“We’re going to continue to withhold him from competition,” Anderson said. “He and I are having some ongoing dialogue, so that’s pretty much where we’re going to leave that. We’ll have more news on that as time rolls on.”