Last Saturday in Waco, Texas, a five second span had Tiger fans everywhere wishing for the second coming of Demarre "Junkyard Dog" Carroll. Not only for his size and strength underneath, but for the tenacity displayed by the first round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Last week, the Missouri Tiger basketball team needed 10:45 to display one glaring and fundamental weakness opponents could exploit heading into tournament play. In that stretch against Texas A&M, the Tigers displayed the inexperience that comes with youth but more frightening, the complacency and over-confidence that comes with success and experience.
This week, they needed only five seconds to send fans in Columbia scrambling to their local pharmacy to renew their prescription for high blood pressure.
The bane of Missouri's existence, rebounding, reared its ugly head again in that short time span that served as a microcosm of Missouri's biggest woe this year.
Sure, any reasonable fan would have expected to get out-rebounded by the Baylor Bears. The boys from Waco feature Ekpe Udoh (6'10'', 240, 10.3 RPG), Anthony Jones (6'10, 186, 5.6 RPG) and Quincy Acy (6'7'', 205, 5.1 RPG). Aside from the mismatch in the post, throw in the fact Missouri is second to last in the Big 12 with a -2.3 rebounding margin per game and it didn't take Mr. Clean to guess that the Tigers were going to have their glass wiped spick and span.
As Missouri clung to a 62-61 advantage with 6.3 seconds to play, LaceDarius Dunn hit his first free throw. After missing the second one, only two black shirts could be seen battling for the game saving rebound. Zaire Taylor, JT Tiller and Kim English stood at the free throw line watching, hoping, praying that Laurence Bowers or Justin Safford would snare the game saving rebound and bail out the Tiger observers. (To be fair, Taylor was knocked down in an attempt to grab the first misfire.)
Instead, Baylor grabbed three offensive rebounds in five seconds (Missouri had six offensive rebounds all game) before Udoh eventually tipped in the game winner with 1.3 seconds to go. Which begs the question, where is the defensive substitution of 6'9'', 265 pound Steve Moore before the foul shots?
For the second time in as many weeks, the Tigers turned in an unacceptable performance in a crucial stretch that sealed their fate.
When your post players are already facing a mismatch on the boards, guard play underneath takes on a whole new meaning. While it's unreasonable to expect the 6'3'' Tiller or 6'4'' Taylor to come up with that board cleanly, they could show up their pesky hands they've displayed time and again to pop that ball out of a Baylor forwards hands.
Instead, the Tigers left Waco with a last-second defeat. As they head back to Columbia to face the Big 12's leaders in rebounding, the Texas Longhorns, the Missouri Tigers will have no time to watch the play.
Enough of that will be going on anyway. The game's sold out.
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