By Mathew Fairburn
As the time drained off the clock in the second half of Missouri’s 78-36 win over Mississippi State, a sense of relief spread across the Tiger bench. The team’s six-game road losing streak had finally come to an end.
For weeks, the Tigers have fielded questions regarding the team’s struggles on the road. After back-to-back road losses at LSU and Texas A&M by a combined five points that pushed Missouri’s road record to 0-4 in the SEC, the team was all out of answers.
As it turned out, the answer was in Starkville, Miss., where the Bulldogs had lost eight straight games and came into Wednesday’s contest with a 2-8 record in conference.
Missouri (18-6, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) took advantage early, storming out to a 14-0 lead, holding Mississippi State (7-16, 2-9) scoreless for nearly 10 minutes of play to start the game.
“I thought our kids played hard and played well defensively,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “That was the difference. We haven’t been doing that.”
Senior guard Keion Bell scored more than 20 points for the second straight game, pacing the Tigers with a game-high 24 points. He is leading the team in scoring over the last month, averaging more than 15 points per game. Jabari Brown chipped in 20 points for Missouri as well.
Senior point guard Phil Pressey dished his 500th career assist early in the game and finished with 507. He is the record holder for Missouri men’s basketball.
While Missouri has struggled on the road the season, the team is finally getting healthy. The Tigers struggled with injuries throughout the early part of the season, the most notable of which was to senior captain Laurence Bowers. Now that the team is back to full strength, Haith said his team is getting comfortable playing with one another.
“We haven’t had all our guys,” Haith said. “Chemistry-wise we’ve been moving guys in and out of the lineup. We now got all our guys and they know their rotation.”
The Tigers hope the road success continues, as the team plays three of its next four games away from Mizzou Arena.
Missouri heads to Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday to take on former coach Mike Anderson and Arkansas. The game is scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m. The Tigers return home to Mizzou Arena to face Florida on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.