Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — When the Missouri men’s basketball team self-imposed sanctions Jan. 13, Ryan Rosburg took the biggest blow. As the team’s lone senior, the one-year postseason ban would affect him the most.
And yet, Rosburg has had three of his four double-digit performances this year in the games after that announcement.
“I guess since the postseason ban, there’s not as much pressure, and we just go out and try to play and try to win and not worry about missing shots or whatever it may be,” he said, “just try to have fun and enjoy what’s left.”
For Rosburg, what’s left is eight games, one of which comes at 8 p.m. today at Vanderbilt (SEC Network).
“Ryan’s been great from the day I walked into this arena,” coach Kim Anderson said. “… He’s been a great person and a joy to coach and I hope — we’ve got eight games left, I hope we can finish them off good for him.”
Rosburg set a career high with 17 points Saturday at Alabama, including an eight-point run of his own in the second half.
Anderson said it was one of Rosburg’s best performances since the second-year coach came to Missouri.
“(I) just was getting the ball in good spots, teammates had some great assists, great passes to me, and shots just started to fall,” Rosburg said. “So it just became easier.”
Rosburg said he is more confident of late, and seeing the ball go through the net has helped. Though it’s not as if his offensive success has come out of nowhere, Anderson said.
“He’s always had good footwork,” he said of Rosburg. “I think he’s probably gotten better in the last couple years. We’ve tried to work with him more at getting angles to the basket and getting himself to where he can use that footwork. He’s not a terrible shooter, but he doesn’t shoot from outside and so he has to work to get angles, and I think he’s done a lot better job of that lately the last few games.”
As Missouri’s tallest player, Rosburg will have his hands full today with Vanderbilt 7-footer Damian Jones.
“When you’ve got the guy on the inside,” Anderson said, “that makes it easier. Because you say, ‘Well, we’re going to double, we’re going to go double Damian Jones.’ Well, who are you going to go double off of? So that’s the problem.”
Jones averages 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
Anderson commended the Commodores’ ability to move with and without the ball.
“Sometimes you tell your guys (in practice), ‘Hey, we’re going to try to play without dribbling,’ and they could easily do that,” Anderson said. “I mean, you watch them play, and they move the ball extremely well.”
Wade Baldwin IV leads Vanderbilt with 14.6 points per game, and the Commodores have six players averaging eight or more points.
“We’d better pick him up early and make sure he doesn’t get any open looks,” Anderson said of Baldwin. “I think he’s a pretty talented player. The thing that impresses me, he’s shooting like 46 percent from 3, he has a great ability to bring the ball on the break and just stop and shoot.
“… The problem with them, though, is they’ve got so many other guys that can shoot the basketball.”
Vanderbilt (13-10, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) is second in the league with 8.4 made 3-pointers per game.
The Tigers (8-15, 1-9) will get forward D’Angelo Allen back today. Allen did not make the trip to Alabama because of strep throat. However, Anderson said Monday he was not yet sure whether forwards Jakeenan Gant and Russell Woods would return. The two were arrested last week for possession of marijuana paraphernalia and were suspended for Saturday’s game.
If they do not return, they Tigers will likely have to play a small lineup, as they did Saturday. It worked out nicely for Rosburg, who found some extra space with 3-point threat Cullen VanLeer spreading the floor by playing power forward. Rosburg was able to take advantage with a 7-of-12 performance.
“Ryan’s been a big piece here the past few games,” guard Terrence Phillips said. “He’s had a lot of great games. Hopefully he can continue that these last eight games here.”
The previous eight games haven’t gone well for Missouri, all resulting in SEC losses. With the ban, the next eight games won’t have any postseason implications.
Still, for a certain 6-foot-10 senior, they’re all he has.
“(Rosburg)’s certainly played well lately, and I’m really happy for him, because he’s taken advantage of his opportunities,” Anderson said. “I hope he has a good time his last eight games.”