Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kim Anderson took longer than usual to meet with media after Missouri’s 20-point home loss to Mississippi on Saturday.
His team was having a talk.
“Everybody was doing talking,” senior Keith Shamburger said. “Whoever felt like doing talking, whoever felt like they needed to say something. It started off with Anderson and it ended with Anderson, but in between those lines, whoever had something to say spoke about it.
“Let’s get everything out in the air, because we did just lose by 20 points at home, so obviously something’s going on. Everything got out, and we’re ready to move forward.”
The Tigers will attempt to end their seven-game losing streak in Tuscaloosa, Ala., today against Alabama (8 p.m. SEC Network).
Shamburger said the locker room pow-wow was a mix of positivity and criticism.
“It was just a realization of our team,” he said. “A 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.”
Shamburger said his two cents centered around reminding the 7-14 Tigers they have to compete each and every game. After falling just short in a one-point loss to Arkansas and showing signs of improvement Thursday against No. 1 Kentucky, Missouri showed little enthusiasm Saturday against the Rebels — something to which Anderson and his team have admitted.
“Definitely a dropoff from the Kentucky and Arkansas game,” sophomore guard Wes Clark said. “But man, it was just a tough (game). The zone made us a little stagnant, and we’re just looking to bounce back.”
The Tigers’ losing streak is their worst since 1993, when Anderson was an assistant under Norm Stewart, but Anderson still has faith in his team, which has played the sixth-toughest schedule in the nation.
“We could win every game. We could lose every game,” Anderson said of Missouri’s remaining schedule. “That’s kind of what I’ve told the guys. I’ve said, ‘You know what? Play well, there’s not a game on this schedule that you don’t have a chance to win, but if you don’t play well, you could lose every game.’ So you’ve got to keep plugging away.”
The last time Anderson was a part of a losing streak longer than seven games, he was an assistant at Baylor under Gene Iba. During that 1988-89 season — in which the Bears had separate losing streaks of six, seven and 10 games — Anderson avoided some of the misery by going out and recruiting.
“I can’t do that right now,” he said.
What he can do is get back to the basics. Missouri spent 15 minutes working on uncontested layups in practice yesterday. The Tigers have struggled to finish at the rim this year, and Anderson pointed out the team attempted four unsuccessful putback dunks on Saturday.
“Well, how about we just grab it and put it in?” he said. “That’s eight points.”
Another area where Missouri has come up short is physicality. The Tigers have been at a disadvantage in terms of strength consistently in conference play, and Anderson said players’ individual strength programs have been “ramped up.”
Putting on muscle is a goal that will carry over to the offseason, and though the 2013-14 Tigers still have 10 games to play in the regular season, Anderson is aware his overhaul of the program will take time.
“We need to recruit, we need to develop, and we need to get better, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” the first-year coach said. “It’s going to take time, and we have gotten better.”
It has taken a while for that idea to sink in for players, especially the freshmen who came from high schools where, as Anderson regularly points out, they were the best players and now have to transition into a smaller role.
Shamburger, a senior transfer from Hawaii, won’t be on the court by the time the fruits of the process result in a winning team, but he believes the Tigers have a bright future. He also believes the freshmen are finally starting to understand the process.
“I tell them to keep working and when I come back, I know that it will be a ranked program,” he said. “Because I know that a lot of these kids, they’ve been the top players at their schools, so of course it’s going to take them a while to adjust to college level and the college coaching. So give it a year, and I think that they will adjust to it, and it’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, the current Missouri team still has Southeastern Conference games to play and an eight-game losing streak to avoid. Alabama has lost five of six itself, though two of those losses were to top-ranked Kentucky and the other three came by two points apiece.
“They’re big, but they’re not like Kentucky big,” Anderson said of Alabama. “So hopefully we’ll match up well against them with our front line and with our bigger guys. We have to obviously try to figure out a way to win a game.”
Crimson Tide point guard Ricky Tarrant is out indefinitely with a lower leg injury and will miss tonight’s game. His 13.1 points per game are second-highest on the team.
Missouri will be without freshman guard Tramaine Isabell, who Anderson is withholding from competition for the second straight game for behavioral reasons.