Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Missouri men’s basketball team has lost seven straight games, none more painful than the last.
The Tigers led Mississippi by four Wednesday night with 1:05 to go before allowing seven straight points to fall to 1-8 in Southeastern Conference play.
The attempt to end that streak gets tougher today, as the Tigers (8-14) get Alabama (12-9, 3-6) away from home, where all eight of Missouri’s wins have come.
Missouri has yet to win a true road game under second-year coach Kim Anderson.
Alabama also has a new coach in Avery Johnson, who previously coached eight years in the NBA. He’s found coaching in college to be an entirely different experience.
“Sometimes these guys, as much as they need you to be firm, sometimes they just need a hug, and I just think finding that balance with all of our guys is very important, so that’s been a major difference,” he said Monday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “And college kids have got to go to class. We can’t have shootarounds at 10 o’clock in the morning for a home game. … They have to go to class, and a lot of our guys don’t have families and you’re dealing with moms more than you’re dealing with wives on the next level.”
Moms or no moms, Johnson had a fairly strong debut in non-conference play, going 9-3 with wins against No. 17 Notre Dame and No. 20 Wichita. All of Alabama’s non-conference losses came to teams that were or would be ranked, in Xavier, Dayton and Oregon State.
“I know Avery’s done a good job,” Anderson said in the teleconference. “They had a good non-conference run. I know they’ve got some size and to prepare for them I think we’re going to have to be ready for a lot of different things.”
Alabama has gotten a team-leading 16 points per game out of senior Retin Obasohan, nearly a 10-point jump from last season.
“Coming into this season, we wanted to get Retin some more looks off the ball, get him coming off more screens,” Johnson said. “Just mixing up his game rather than just being a traditional point guard. We just wanted him to be a classic guard that can play both positions, so I think we just moved him around a lot.”
Like Anderson, Johnson said defense was his main focus when taking his first Division I head coaching job.
“We thought that would be our only chance for survival this year,” Johnson said of playing well defensively, “with a new team and especially with Dazon Ingram, our starting point guard, being injured. We thought we were going to have to be one of the top teams in the country defensively, because you know we don’t have a lot of scorers on our team that can just, you can throw the ball to and just create his own shot.”
Missouri will be without Jakeenan Gant and Russell Woods, who are suspended after being arrested Thursday for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Gant and Woods are two of the team’s three scholarship players taller than 6-foot-7.
Notes: The game will be Alabama’s third sellout of the season. … Missouri guard Tramaine Isabell returned from his one-game suspension for poor practice behavior Wednesday against Mississippi.