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Tigers look to refocus today against Volunteers

January 17, 2015 at 3:03 a.m. | Updated January 17, 2015 at 3:03 a.m.
Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein dunks in front of Missouri's Jakeenan Gant during Tuesday's game in Lexington, Ky. The Tigers will try to bounce back from their 39-point loss to the Wildcats today against Tennessee.

After suffering a 49-point loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday, the Missouri men's basketball team made some adjustments. And then they made an attempt to move on.

The Tigers return to the court today at home against Tennessee (5 p.m., SEC Network).

"We talked about it (Wednesday), and kids are pretty resilient," Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. "And then we just kind of moved on. We watched the video and talked about it a little bit in practice, but then we just said, "Hey, that's over.'

"There's been teams that've been beaten bad by Kentucky, so you can't harp on it. You've just got to try to throw it away and move on."

The Tigers practiced Wednesday, a day they normally would have had off after playing three games in six days.

Anderson's staff also shook up the way it approached studying film. The players split up by position to watch video of the Kentucky game, similar to a football team.

Now, their focus is all on Tennessee.

The Volunteers also had a sub-40 point performance in conference play, but unlike Missouri's 86-37 road loss to the top team in the country, Tennessee fell 56-38 last Saturday at home to Alabama.

On Tuesday, however, the Volunteers topped No. 19 Arkansas 74-69.

"They're like us, only I think they're probably better because they're a little bit more experienced," Anderson said. "They've got some good players, and (coach Donnie Tyndall) has done a good job of putting them together in a short period of time."

The Volunteers are led by guard Josh Richardson's 16.4 points per game, fourth-best in the Southeastern Conference. He also leads the conference with 2.3 steals per game.

"They play a little differently in the fact that they play almost all zone defense," Anderson said, "and they'll kind of press you full-court the whole game after a made basket or a free throw or a dead ball."

Missouri and Tennessee are two of the lowest-scoring teams in the SEC, averaging 65.0 and 64.6 points per game, respectively. Only Mississippi State averages fewer, with 60.3. The Tigers and Volunteers also rank near the bottom of the SEC in assists, field-goal percentage and rebounds.

The Tigers will be hoping for a bounceback game from leading scorer Johnathan Williams III. Williams scored just three points against Kentucky on 1-of-13 shooting.

"I think he probably forced a few things, but he's kind of got the green light to force a few things if he thinks he needs to," Anderson said of Williams. "Now, obviously, when you go 1-of-13 you've got to tone it back a little bit. He had a hard time getting to the basket, turned the ball over a little bit, and missed some shots that were not bad shots. They just didn't go down. That's a bad game for him, and that game's over. We've talked about it, and we move on."

Though Missouri isn't harping on the blowout loss, there are still lessons the Tigers can take from the defeat.

"What you have to learn from that game is how hard you have to play, not only for that game but how you have to prepare in the weight room and skill development and everything else," Anderson said. " ... I hope the young guys take to heart that, hey, this is a really good team. This is what we have to do: We have to work harder to get better so that we can compete with this team."

Anderson emphasized defense when he was hired and said his team could use some improvement on that end of the floor.

"I don't think we were playing as well defensively as we were," he said. "I don't think we can give up 85 points and win. ... We can't be a pretty team. We have to be a tough, physical, aggressive team, because we've got to be kind of ugly, and I don't think we're at that point.

"Sometimes, we're not quite tough enough. We don't play hard enough. I think our guys play harder than they've ever had to play, but that's not hard enough to win in the SEC, or it's not hard enough to compete in the NCAA Tournament."

Freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar, the team's second-leading scorer, is expected to miss his fourth straight game with back spasms.

"I'd say doubtful," Anderson said, "but he has improved, so hopefully we'll get him back soon."


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