January 13, 2009

Tigers' leadership comes under question

It has not been the easiest week to be a senior on the Missouri basketball team. During and after a 56-51 loss to Nebraska to start Big 12 play, Mike Anderson has called out his team's elderstatesmen.

"It's important for the guys who have been here to set the tone," Anderson said on Monday. "We saw the tone they set."

The point was obvious. Any message Missouri's trio of seniors sent with their play in Lincoln was negative. DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons sat scoreless on the bench for most of the first half in foul trouble. Matt Lawrence made two three-pointers in the game's opening minutes...and did not score again.

"That's something that me and DeMarre have to ask ourselves, kind of have a gut-check and question our heart," Lawrence said. "Every big game this year, it seems like we haven't been able to step up to the plate. We've got to work on it."

The words are all well and good. But ultimately, Missouri knows the words won't win them any games in the Big 12.

"I just think we can play much better basketball than that. We've proven that, but it's a matter of whether we're going to," Taylor said. "It's easy to say now, 'Yeah, we're gonna pick this up, we're gonna clean this up.' But at the end of the day, you've got to prove it. On Wednesday, we play Colorado. We might go out there and play a great game. And then people will say, 'They're back.' Then the question is not what happens Wednesday, or even Saturday (against Iowa State), it's pretty much whether you can maintain it. We've been here before. We've been here with Illinois and we picked it up. We went on the road against Georgia, which is a strong, bigger team. We held our own there and then we went to Nebraska and play the way we played, resembling the Illinois performance. It's a matter of how long you let it stay with you, that feeling. Whether you're going to be content after three more wins and look back and say everything's cool, or whether you're going to say, we've got to have that mentality that coach has. You've got to resemble your coach. Coach is a fighter, so we've go to be fighters."

The Tigers will fight Colorado at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night, looking to pick up their first conference win of the year.

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