posted on January 08, 2013 21:43
A 16-point SEC-opener blowout over Alabama came with what may be a big price for Missouri.
With around five minutes left in the game, Phil Pressey rolled up on Laurence Bowers' right knee, sending him to the ground and, eventually, to the locker room. He would return to Missouri's bench, but his evening in the stat sheet was over.
After the game, Missouri coach Frank Haith couldn't offer much on the severity of the injury.
"It looks like an MCL sprain, maybe, " Haith said. "But we don't know the extent of it. They're going to look at it in the morning."
That will come in the form of an MRI, according to teammate Alex Oriakhi, who said he hadn't yet spoken to Bowers about the injury. The good news is that this injury was not to the same knee that Bowers shredded before last season, forcing him to miss all of his presumed senior year. But now, this injury throws Missouri's conference season and post-season aspirations into a bit of disarray.
If it's serious, then Missouri is in trouble in the long-term. But even if it's not, getting Bowers' healthy is paramount to a win in its biggest conference game -- a road date with Florida on Jan. 19. Two games separate Missouri from that match-up, against Ole Miss and Georgia. The Tigers likely can win without Bowers in that stretch, especially if Tony Criswell returns from a broken finger soon.
But a (hypothetical) long-term absence by Bowers makes Missouri's top-heavy team even more so.
Against Alabama, five Missouri players scored. All five -- Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, Alex Oriakhi, Bowers and Pressey -- scored in double figures. The rest of Missouri's lineup took four shots combined, and all came by freshman Stefan Jankovic.
Depth wasn't supposed to be an issue with this Tigers' team, as it was a year ago. But, the five scorers from Tuesday are the Tigers biggest scoring threats. Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell has had moments, but he's gone missing in games lately: No shots against Illinois, one shot against Bucknell, no shots against Alabama. If Bowers is out for any period of time, either the burden of his team-leading 16.8 points will have to be shared by the remaining four scorers, or Bell and the freshmen will have to step up.
Odds are, the burden will be placed on Ross, on Oriakhi, on Brown and on Pressey, cutting down Missouri's depth even more.
This may be a moot point. Maybe the MRI on Wednesday will show nothing major. Maybe Bowers will be fine by Saturday in Oxford. But his tumble to the floor brought up a very real scenario for a top heavy team:
What happens when the Tigers' leading man goes down?
Toward the end of the press conference, a reporter tried to ask how the team handles that kind of adversity, when their leading scorer leaves the game for good. His question was cut off, and no answers were given.
That's because, at this time, there aren't any answers.