Columbia, Mo. Unbeaten at home and often very beatable on the road, No. 20 Missouri is running out of chances to prove itself an all-around threat.
The Tigers have an NCAA tournament resume with 20 wins, an RPI of 27 and a challenging schedule with five games to go before the Big 12 tournament. The soft spot in the profile: an 0-5 record in conference road games. They have three more chances to get it right, starting Saturday at Iowa State.
Minutes after Missouri (20-6, 6-5 Big 12) made it 16 straight at the Mizzou Arena with a tougher-than-expected 92-84 victory over Texas Tech, the home-road disparity quizzing began anew. Before Tuesday, the last 10 home opponents trailed by at least 15 points in the second half and the winning margin averaged 23.7 points.
Colorado, a 16-point loser at Missouri, won by 13 at Boulder, Colo. The Tigers took Texas A&M to overtime, but got blown out in the second half at Kansas and played catchup at Texas and Oklahoma State.
Iowa State was a 33-point loser in Columbia on Jan. 22, is 1-4 at home in Big 12 play and has lost eight in a row overall. Typically, a stiff test is anticipated in the rematch against ISU (14-12, 1-10)
Guard Kim English said that’s true for any destination.
“The ambiance is just a different feel,” English said. “You can’t compare scores, you can’t compare games. It’s just a different beast on the road, you just have to come prepared from the get go.”
Different games, different breakdowns.
Missouri is among the best in the nation at forcing turnovers with an all-court style billed as “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.” Not so much on the road, with Colorado (10), Texas A&M (9), Oklahoma State (11) and Kansas (12) all keeping the giveaways under control.
Far from winded, Kansas outscored Missouri, 57-44, in the second half. Oklahoma State gave up only two points of an eight-point cushion. All five road opponents outrebounded the Tigers.
Marcus Denmon was 3-for-9 with seven points at Texas and was held to 11 points at Kansas. Justin Safford got bumped from the starting lineup after totaling 11 points on 3-for-16 shooting at Texas and Oklahoma State.
English was 2-for-10 at Colorado, 1-for-8 at Oklahoma State and 1-for-6 at Kansas. Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers each played 28 minutes at Oklahoma State, and Pressey was held to five points and Bowers to seven.
Ricardo Ratliffe was held to eight points and four rebounds at Texas.
“It’s going to be huge going on the road,” Denmon said. “You have to do the little things. Get every rebound, knock shots down, make free throws and guard.”
The Tigers don’t hit the road on a high note, either, after trading baskets all night against Texas Tech. Coach Mike Anderson said the team just seemed flat.
“It just wasn’t there. When you walked into the arena, it just seemed like we were playing Texas Tech and let’s go get the game over with,” Anderson said. “If we don’t show up with the mindset and the energy and stop people, then we’re going to be in a dogfight in a lot of games.”
Anderson isn’t emphasizing the road woes.
“I just talk about us getting better,” the coach said.