Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — Ryan Rosburg is playing so well on offense, he’s scoring points even when he doesn’t want to.
The senior forward punctuated Missouri’s 75-64 win against Tennessee on Saturday with a two-handed dunk as time wound down. He apologized to Vols coach Rick Barnes afterward, perhaps because Kansas coach Bill Self recently criticized one of his own players for a similarly unnecessary slam.
Still, being a bad winner is a good problem to have if you’re Missouri.
The win snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Tigers (9-16, 2-10 Southeastern Conference), who hope to get some more practice winning today (6 p.m., SEC Network) when they host South Carolina (21-4, 8-4).
And if there’s one thing the Tigers can build off, it’s the recent emergence of Rosburg, who, for the record, said Barnes was not offended by the late dunk. Rosburg said he thought he was going to get fouled and, “given (my) free-throw percentage, (I) just wanted to finish it.”
The bucket gave him 21 points for the game and an average of 21 his last three outings. He has also averaged 7.7 rebounds in that stretch.
“I can’t even find the words to describe it,” freshman forward Kevin Puryear said. “… Rosburg, he really has such good footwork, and I just really like to sometimes learn from him, because you don’t really see footwork like that very often.
“Ever since I got here, he’s always taken me under his wing and showed me the ropes, and I really appreciate that from him. So to see him have a moment like this, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Head coach Kim Anderson said he’s always known Rosburg had it in him.
“You can always depend on him,” Anderson said. “You can always depend on him to be in the right spot, and you can always tell him things and he’ll do it. He’ll execute it. He doesn’t let the crowd bother him or anything else. He does what you ask him to.”
When Missouri played Jan. 16 at South Carolina, Rosburg scored 12 points, which at that time was two points away from a career high. The Tigers have yet to win a true road game in Anderson’s two seasons at Missouri, but they hung tough against the then-No. 19 Gamecocks. Missouri was within seven points with less than a minute to go, a moral victory if not an official one.
“I think our guys know that I think that South Carolina is one of the toughest teams in our league for you to move the ball (against),” Anderson said. “Because they get after you. I think we played them and Kentucky close together and it was like, ‘Are we going to get the ball across the half-court line tonight?’
“… I don’t know how many games it’s been since we’ve played them, but hopefully we’ve gotten better and we’ve gotten smarter.”
Missouri was behind the 8- ball early, letting South Carolina get out to an 8-0 lead.
“We can always learn from every game, win or loss, especially that game,” freshman Terrence Phillips said. “We were right there with them almost the entire game. They got off to a fast start. We got off to a slow start, so hopefully at home we can minimize that.”
Four Gamecocks posted double-digit scoring totals in that game, led by Sindarius Thornwell’s 22. Wes Clark, meanwhile, posted a career-high 26 for the Tigers. But Clark has struggled to score of late, posting just 12 combined points his last three games.
“He only took one shot,” Anderson said after Clark’s four-point outing Saturday, “but I thought from a standpoint of handling the basketball and helping our team, I thought he did a good job.”
The Tigers are looking for a repeat of Saturday not just on the scoreboard but in the stands as well. A season-high 10,536 were in attendance, a number boosted by it being the #RallyForRhyan game. Admission was free with a donation to support pediatric cancer research in honor of assistant coach Brad Loos’ daughter, Rhyan, who is battling neuroblastoma.
“I think this is probably the biggest crowd this season we had tonight, and it was phenomenal in here,” Phillips said after the win. “I looked up after the starting lineups, looked to the student section and it was packed to the top and I couldn’t believe it. So hopefully Mizzou Nation, they come out and support us again. It’s a big game on Tuesday.”