Missouri’s 98-79 win over Ole Miss was exactly what the Tigers needed.
And I’m not simply talking about the fact that they won a game they needed to win or that they beat a team that was tied for second in the SEC standings.
The Tigers have been a shell of themselves since Bowers went down with the sprained MCL against Alabama back in early January. They got worked by Ole Miss on the road, and followed that up with a pounding at florida, losses at LSU and Texas A&M, and uninspiring home wins against South Carolina and Auburn. Some of those games were played with Bowers back in the lineup, which made things even more concerning for the Tigers.
Doubters started popping up. Maybe this just isn’t a good basketball team?
Well, on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers did their best to reverse that line of thinking, as they pounded the Rebels from the tip.
Phil Pressey caught fire early, sparking a 33-13 surge in the first 11 minutes, and Alex Oriakhi cleaned up down the stretch — he finished with 22 points, 18 boards (10 offensive), three blocks, and nearly instigated one brawl — as Missouri played their best 40 minutes of basketball of the season.
Is this a great win? Ehh, probably not. Ole Miss isn’t all that good this year, and Missouri is a much better team in their own gym than on the road. And the Tigers still didn’t play a perfect game. Pressey forced some shots, their offense wasn’t exactly free-flowing and their defense left much to be desired.
This win also did nothing to change the biggest issue that Missouri has right now: they can’t win on the road. While I don’t think that the Tigers are in danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament, there is something to be said for the fact that they don’t have a road win this season. Five of their last eight games are on the road, and one of those home games comes against Florida.
But at the end of the day, Missouri came out, played some great basketball and, frankly, sent a message in a game that they really needed to play well and make a statement.
There’s work to be done, but Saturday was a big building block for the rest of the Tiger season.