Florida vs. Missouri: Phil Pressey Needs to Shine for Mizzou to Have a Shot

Reece Brassler@ Contributor IIIFebruary 19, 2013

Phil Pressey needs to come up big for Missouri if the Tigers want to beat the No. 5 Florida Gators.
Phil Pressey needs to come up big for Missouri if the Tigers want to beat the No. 5 Florida Gators.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Phil Pressey of the Missouri Tigers, preseason SEC player of the year and first-team All-American, hasn't quite lived up to the hype this season.

The diminutive point guard has been a shell of himself in 2012, despite averaging more points and assists than in 2011.  As a result, his turnovers have increased and he's shooting just 36 percent from the field.

As Pressey has struggled, so too have the Tigers.

Selected to finish third in the conference, Missouri has limped to a 7-5 conference record against a noticeably weak SEC field.

It seems Tuesday night's game against No. 5 Florida will only exacerbate its problems.

The Gators travel to Columbia on the heels of three-straight 17-plus point victories, including a win over John Calipari and the No. 25 Kentucky Wildcats.

Missouri, on the other hand, is looking to bounce back from Saturday's loss to the unranked Arkansas Razorbacks.

For the Tigers to stand a chance, Phil Pressey must shine.

Head coach Frank Haith and the Missouri faithful hope to see the 19-point, 19-assist Phil Pressey who nearly led the Tigers to an upset victory over UCLA, not the two-point, 10-turnover Phil Pressey who led them to a 31-point loss in Gainesville on January 19.

The problem is: You never know what to expect from the energetic point guard. 

Though he's posted eight games of 10-plus points and six or more assists this season, he's also shot under 30 percent in seven games.  His assist totals lead one to believe he's an incredible team player, but his poor shot selection and reckless ball handling have devastated the Tigers in losses to Louisville, Florida and Texas A&M.

Can he channel his sensational 2011-12 season to upset Billy Donovan and the Gators, or will his erratic 2012-13 season continue?

In their last matchup, Pressey struggled facing one of the premier on-ball defenders in the nation, Scottie Wilbekin.  While Wilbekin's quick hands and relentless pressure on passing lanes caught Pressey off-guard in January, the highly-touted point man should be well-prepared for the assignment this time around.

If he can get his teammates involved early, taking pressure off his shot, the Tigers' stand-out could make this game interesting.

One thing is certain: He will need to be on top of his game to give the Missouri a chance.

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