In the game's opening minutes, everything was going well for LSU. Charles Carmouche and Anthony Hickey were on fire from the three point line, and they helped their team out to a 25-12 lead in the game's first 10 minutes, leaving Mizzou Arena eerily silent.
Unfortunately, over the next 30 minutes, the Missouri Tigers regrouped and played some of their best basketball of the season. They quickly cut LSU's advantage to single digits, before ultimately taking the lead at 31-29, just 5 minutes later. The game was still close at halftime, with Mizzou only leading 43-39, but the lead widened in the second half, as the home team ultimately won a fairly comfortable game at home.
Despite the result, the LSU Tigers actually played a pretty solid game, outside of a few lapses. The performance of two backcourt starters was particularly strong, as Carmouche and Hickey combined for 43 points, hitting 11 of 22 three pointers and 14 of 31 overall shots, while only committing one turnover against an athletic defense.
Unfortunately, there wasn't a strong contribution from the bench, including the usually steady Shavon Coleman, and Andre Stringer had one of his worst outings of the season, hitting just 1 of 8 shots for 3 points. Additionally, despite pulling down 18 points and 8 rebounds, Johnny O'Bryant III was outplayed by Missouri's frontcourt of Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers. JOB III couldn't overpower either player in the deep post, and as a result, he took some awkward shots and was also called for a couple of traveling violations.
Today's performance shows that JOB III still has room to improve, despite some breakout performances in February. There is increasing speculation that he may look to enter the 2013 Draft, and at this time, he isn't ready to go up against most NBA power forwards, much less centers like Omer Asik, Tyson Chandler, or Larry Sanders.
However, the game was ultimately won because of the outstanding performance of the Missouri starting line-up. Laurence Bowers, a 5th year senior who has been hampered by injuries this season, put up 23 points and 10 rebounds, while UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi went for 18 and 10. Pre-season SEC player of the year Phil Pressey added 15 points and 8 assists, while only turning the ball over twice.
Mizzou shot an incredible 58 percent from the field and got a surprising number of their baskets inside. For a team that has often relied on transition baskets and three point shooting to win games, this was a positive development.
In the pre-season, I expected Missouri to contend with Florida for the SEC title since they had such a talented and experienced roster. Things haven't worked out quite that well, but they are now 21-8, with a 10-6 conference record. With just a week left in the regular season, they are one of two SEC teams that has secured itself a position in the NCAA Tournament. And when they play some of their best basketball of the season at home, it isn't surprising to see them win.
Meanwhile, LSU has dropped to 17-10, with an 8-8 conference record, which is far better than I expected in November. Earlier in the day, Alabama and Tennessee had lost (and later on, Ole Miss would suffer a shocking upset at Mississippi State), so this was an opportune moment for LSU to move up in the SEC standings. However, with the loss, all hopes of an at-large bid are likely gone.
Now, the Tigers need to focus on the next 2 games to get favorable seeding for the SEC Tournament in two weeks. Next up is Texas A&M at College Station. Tip-off is 7:00 Wednesday.