Fool Missouri once, shame on them. Fooling Missouri twice, though, has been fairly difficult this season.
Given the chance, Missouri has beaten every team at home that it lost to on the road. While late game turnovers and sloppy play have translated to road losses, they have been able to take advantage of their home court, failing to drop a home game to an opponent in 15 games this season.
Saturday’s game against Louisiana State offered the same opportunity and, luckily for Missouri, the same result. Despite poor perimeter defense throughout, Missouri (21-8, 10-6 SEC) remained undefeated at home, beating LSU (17-10, 8-8 SEC) 89-76 in front of 14,212 at Mizzou Arena.
A little over a month after the team left Baton Rouge with their fifth loss of the year, Missouri sent their fellow Tigers back to Louisiana with a loss as well.
“I thought we got off to a great start today, which was extremely important in this type of environment,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “Missouri did an excellent job of staying poised and making a run there before the half and making their set of adjustments to get back in.”
Missouri came out strong from the first tip as Jabari Brown bolted down court and looked over his shoulder as Keion Bell’s pass bounced into his hands for an easy dunk following a missed shot by LSU.
The transition basket, Missouri’s first scoring play of the game, did more than get the team on the board. It seemed to set the tone for a team that was looking to avenge one of their most embarrassing losses in an uneven first season in the Southeastern Conference.
“Coach did a great job of game planning, and we benefited from it,” senior Laurence Bowers said.
The eight minutes that followed weren’t as triumphant. After jumping out to a 6-0 lead, LSU fought back with a 16-4 run and led by a score of 25-12 midway through the first half. After MU coach Haith called a timeout, Missouri’s offense woke up and broke out on a 21-5 run behind the play of Bell and junior Earnest Ross.
“There’s not a 13-point shot, so we’re not going to go out there and just start wailing away,” Haith said. “We’re going to be who we are.”
Despite Missouri leading 43-39 going into the half, the game was still up for grabs due to both teams' inability to be consistent on both offense and defense. In a game of wild swings back and forth, Missouri was able to come out on top with consistent offensive production in the second half.
"I think that we were very good offensively the entire game,” Haith said. “I thought that Laurence gave us a nice lift in the high post when LSU went zone and made some really nice plays. You have to have guys that can knock down shots, and we did that today.”
Junior Phil Pressey scored five quick points to give Missouri a seven-point lead coming out of the half, a lead the team would refuse to surrender for the remainder of the game. With a pass from the baseline to forward Alex Oriakhi during the second half, Pressey got his 200th assist of the season, maintaining his place as the SEC leader in dimes.
Bowers continued his impressive play at home as of late, leading both teams with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Pressey scored 15 points with eight assists and Ross, the team's main reserve, added 13 points off 4-6 shooting.
While the Tigers from Baton Rouge fell behind to start the second half, with less than four minutes to go in the game, LSU managed to keep the game interesting. Behind the play of guard Charles Carmouche, who scored 21 points off 5-of-8 shooting from the perimeter, LSU brought the lead to eight points as the game dwindled down to its final minutes.
“I think we did a good job of coming out and throwing the first punch and letting them know that we were here to win the ball game,” Carmouche said. “It's a 40-minute game; you can't just play in the first half. I think we took our foot off the gas.”
As the clock began to wind down and the crowd reawakened, LSU had a chance to trim the lead to five points and end Missouri’s dominance at home this season.
After an air balled three from Carmouche and a putback by Oriakhi however, Missouri led by double digits and stopped LSU short of completing a comeback. Five of Missouri’s players scored in double figures in the win, with Brown being the lone starter without at least 10 points.
“Obviously we had some defensive miscues in the end,” Bowers said. “We just gotta get better from it. LSU is a pretty good 3-point shooting team and you can’t take that away from them. We just have to get in the gym and get better.”
With the rest of the March schedule ahead of them, the SEC tournament and NCAA tournament mere weeks away, Oriakhi only had one thing on his mind on the court against LSU.
“I just wanted revenge, to be honest,” Oriakhi said. “I don’t care how much I scored. I just wanted to win.”