Ole Miss v Missouri

No. 21 Missouri makes a much-needed statement vs. Ole Miss

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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.


Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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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…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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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)