COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A three-game losing streak to end the regular season knocked Missouri out of the Top 25. Coach Mike Anderson blames the swoon on porous defense.
Dragged down by a 1-7 conference road record, the Tigers (22-9) have the sixth seed in the Big 12 tournament and play Texas Tech on Wednesday. A loss to Kansas on Saturday spoiled a perfect home record.
“We’ve been able to score, but our defense hasn’t been where I wanted it to be,” Anderson said Monday. “I always say there’s a great run in our team and hopefully this will be the time.”
Inside play also has been a problem. Kansas committed a season-worst 24 turnovers but had a 49-29 rebounding advantage in the conference finale.
“I just think our team is built for this time of the year,” Anderson said “I think we have some guys who can play better and this is their opportunity to do that.
“Hopefully our guys will come out and get that bad taste out of their mouth. “
Guard Marcus Denmon, named first-team All-Big 12, was optimistic about the Tigers’ chances.
“We’re very capable,” Denmon said. “We won 22 games and there’s not a lot of teams that can say they have that many wins. We really feel that this is the best time of the year to be playing your best and all the records are thrown out.”
Guard Kim English, Missouri’s leading scorer with a 14-point average last season, enters the conference tournament in a 3-for-20 shooting slump.
“I think he’s trying and I think sometimes you try too hard,” Anderson said. “It seems like the more relaxed he plays, the better he plays.”
Forward Laurence Bowers learned from reporters after practice that Texas Tech coach Pat Knight had been fired.
“For him to get let off I think they’ll really want to win for him,” Bowers said. “That’s just going to put some more fire under them. It can only last so long so we just have to play our game.”