One of the few Missouri people not fully enjoying the Tigers’ fabulous season happens to sit on the bench. But not by choice.
Forward Laurence Bowers tore the ACL in his left knee during an October pick-up game. That resulted in season-ending surgery for a guy who would’ve been a starter after averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and led the Big 12 in blocked shots.
Missouri (26-4, 13-4 in Big 12) adjusted nicely, going to a guard-heavy lineup and getting consistent play from forward Ricardo Ratliffe inside. (Would the season be the same with Bowers in there? Tough to say.)
But it’s been tough on Bowers, who’s tried to maintain a positive outlook with teammates, even if he’s dying to be on the court.
From the AP:
“He’s been outstanding,” [coach Frank] Haith said. “He’s a really good leader. He’s always talking to the guys. We take him on the road so he’s at every team meeting, he’s engaged (with) what’s going on in terms of our preparation. And that helps … It feeds him, because he’s not playing in the game.”
Bowers acknowledged that Missouri’s success this season has at times made sitting out more difficult.
“It’s real bittersweet,” he said. “Of course, I want my guys to do extremely well. These are guys I’ve been with for three or four years. The bitterness is I’m not a part of it. “
So here’s a question: If Missouri makes the Final Four for the first time in school – or even wins it all – does Bowers still have some bitterness? Or does the sheer joy associated with that kind of accomplishment ease some of that? A little bitterness at a missed opportunity will always remain. But winning makes everything better. Even if you’re forced to watch.
Also good news? Bowers should be ready for next season. Then he can really feel better.
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)